On 24 June 2016, the right to live in the United Kingdom for over 3 million people of its people was suddenly cast into doubt. There are estimated to be over 3 million citizens of other EEA countries living in the UK. The total number may be higher if their family members (spouses, parents, others) from outside the EU is taken into account. Many, probably the vast majority, do not have residence documents because under EU law they do not need them.
Following the outcome of the referendum we were not only contacted by concerned EU nationals but UK business owners who were worried about what Brexit would mean for their existing EU members of staff who provide a valuable contribution to their business.
The common question that I was being asked was not how can I protect my business? But how can help my staff and make sure that they understand their position and status in the UK because they are very confused and worried.
European Union nationals will be able to apply for either settled status (confirmation of their right to permanently reside in the UK after 5 years continuous residence in the UK) or pre-settled status (working towards permanent residence). This will mean your employees can continue living in the UK after December 2020. The EU Settlement Scheme will open fully by March 2019 and the deadline for applying will be 30 June 2021.
EU nationals will not need to provide evidence of their entire residence in the UK, only for the period that proves their eligibility for settled or pre-settled status.
If they have paid tax through work, their National Insurance number will be used by the Home office to confirm when they have bee resident in the UK.
Your employees may need to give any further evidence to prove their continuous residence, for example:
- P60s or P45s
- bank statements
- utility bills
- contracts of employment or letters confirming employment
- certificates from accredited educational organisation
- airline or train tickets confirming travel into the UK
Applicant’s will able to submit scans of these documents through the online application form. For those in continuous employment over the five year qualifying period the application process and supporting documents should be fairly straightforward.
Currently the EU settlement pilot is in its second phase and from 15 November 2018, staff of any UK HEI, or any overseas HEI in the UK (which is registered as a Tier 4 visa sponsor), will be able to start their applications for ‘settled status’.
Later in the month, the pilot will be extended again to include health and social care workers.
In some instances EU Nationals may not only have acquired a permanent right of residence but they potentially may be eligible to naturalise as British Citizens.
At this stage as an employer it is important for you to understand the position as it stand today and provide the support, assistance and information that your employees need particularly, those who are still uncertain about what they should do to best protect their position.