The deadline for EU nationals who were living in the UK before 31 December 2020 to apply for pre-settled status or settled status is fast approaching. Any EU national who wants to continue to live and work in the UK must apply through the EU Settlement Scheme by 30 June 2021.

Pre-settled status or settled status?

EU nationals can apply for pre-settled status if they have been in the UK for less than 5 years and they can apply for settled status if they have been in the UK for 5 years or more. In both cases, the individual must have been resident in the UK before 11pm on 31 December 2020. Applications for the EU Settlement Scheme can be made online.

Many employers have worked hard to ensure that their EU national employees have applied and they have provided support to those who need it so they can continue to have the right to live and work in the UK. However, recent reports suggest that there are large numbers of EU nationals, including family members of EU national workers, who have not yet applied. Although the Government has stepped up its communications recently, there are many EU nationals who may not even be aware that they need to apply.

If they haven’t done so already, employers should review their workforce as a matter of urgency because the consequences for EU national employees who do not apply by the deadline are significant. From 1 July 2021, those workers who have not obtained or applied for pre-settled or settled status will become illegal workers and could be subject to immigration enforcement action, even if they have been in the UK for decades or they have previously secured permanent residence status. It will be unlawful for any UK employer to employ an EU national without pre-settled or settled status (or another valid right to work in the UK) and, if they do, they could be subject to civil penalties and criminal sanctions. Whilst an employer is likely to be able to follow a fair process to end an employment contract legally in this situation, this is obviously something employers will want to avoid.

EU nationals who already have pre-settled or settled status can prove their status by providing their employer with a share code to conduct a right to work check online.

EU nationals who are not eligible for pre-settled or settled status (because they were not resident in the UK prior to 31 December 2020) will need another right to work in the UK, such as a Skilled Worker visa under the revised points-based system which was put in place post-Brexit. To employ an overseas national on a Skilled Worker visa, employers will need to be registered as a sponsor with a sponsor licence. Applying for a sponsor licence can take up to 8 weeks, although a priority 10 working day option is available for an additional £500 fee. Therefore, employers that do not have a sponsor licence but may wish to employ new EU nationals this year or in the future should think about applying for a licence sooner rather than later.

If you need help with any immigration issues please contact a member of the Immigration Team.