With the new year now upon us, if you run a business that employs EU nationals, it’s time to put your Brexit immigration plans into place. As you will be aware, the UK is set to leave the EU on 31 January 2020. We have therefore set out below five new year’s resolutions to help you prepare for the year ahead in terms of employing EU nationals after Brexit.
This may sound obvious, but we often speak to business owners and HR professionals who are unclear about how Brexit affects the legal status of their EU national employees. Free movement and the right of EU nationals to live and work in the UK is currently still in place. However, this will all change in the future. Assuming the UK leaves the EU on 31 January 2020 with a Brexit deal, the EU nationals you employ will have to apply for settled status (or pre-settled status) under the EU Settlement Scheme by 30 June 2021.
If you feel you need more information about the EU Settlement Scheme, we would be happy to take you through the requirements of the Scheme in more detail. We also provide HR and Line Manager Training on employing EU nationals post-Brexit. This can be carried out at your offices for a fixed fee.
Now is a good time to carry out an audit of your employees. You need to know who is an EU national or a family member being sponsored by an EU national. You can then support these employees and information can be given to them on an individual basis where needed. However, at this stage, you do not need to ask for evidence of EU nationals’ status other than their EU passport or national ID card. The Government has said that extra evidence will not be necessary until June 2021, although this may change if there is a no deal Brexit.
Those employees who have applied for settled status or pre-settled status under the EU Settlement Scheme can authorise their employer to check their status online, but this is optional. You may like to have an open discussion with your employees about this. However you should make sure that you do not demand evidence or draw any adverse inference if an employee who is entitled to apply under the Scheme does not demonstrate that they have done so.
The lack of certainty about Brexit and the impact on EU nationals has caused huge anxiety. Now that a clearer way forward is emerging, you can finally start to implement your Brexit plans and provide support to your EU national employees if necessary. Although there is no legal requirement for employers to provide information to their employees, many larger employers have been giving their EU national employees information on how Brexit will affect them. We can assist you with this process by giving training to your HR and Line Manager teams or even coming into your offices to talk to your EU national staff members generally about the process involved.
You may assume that your EU national employees already know about their legal position and the details of the EU Settlement Scheme but many do not. If you can provide reassurance to them that there is no risk to their or their family’s right to stay and work in the UK (as long as they make an EU Settlement Scheme application before the cut-off date) then you will have a happier and more productive workforce.
Even if Brexit happens as planned on 31 January 2020, there is still a risk that an agreement on the future relationship between the UK and the EU may not be reached by the Government’s self-imposed December 2020 deadline. However, even if the UK and the EU are unable to reach an agreement in the future, this will not affect your EU national employees who are already employed in the UK. They will still be able to apply to stay and work in the UK under the EU Settlement Scheme (albeit that in a no deal situation the deadline for applications is likely to change to 31 December 2020 rather than 30 June 2021).
In the event of a no deal Brexit, EU nationals who arrive in the UK to work between Brexit date and January 2021 (when a new immigration system is due to come into force), will be able to come to the UK for an initial three month period without a visa. They will then be able to apply for the new European Temporary Leave to Remain visa.
As you may be aware, a new immigration system is currently being developed which will change how businesses can employ both EU and non-EU nationals from January 2021. It is likely that employers will need to apply for a Tier 2 sponsor licence (currently needed to sponsor non-EU skilled migrants) for new EU national hires post-January 2021. If your business relies on EU nationals and you wish to prepare for the new immigration system, we would be happy to advise you on the requirements of a Tier 2 sponsor licence in more detail.
For more information on business and personal immigration issues, including employing EU nationals after Brexit please contact Jane Biddlecombe, Associate and Head of the Immigration Team at Paris Smith LLP.
For further information on the business immigration services we provide please visit our Business Immigration page on our website.