For this article, we have partnered with Reiss Edwards, a leading business immigration firm based in London to advise our clients about the Brexit EU Settlement Scheme, and why this is critically important for EU national employees.
The end of 2020 also marks the end of the Brexit transition period. We are currently working with businesses in London and across the UK to put in place the necessary accounting arrangements they will need for 1st January 2021. We are urging all businesses to do what they can now to understand the impacts on their supply chain, a key part of which is ensuring that they have the necessary arrangements in place to recruit skilled members of staff from the European Union (EU). Existing EU/EEA staff within your organisation will also need help to ensure their immigration status can be assured from 2021. To this end, we have partnered with Reiss Edwards, a leading business immigration firm based in London to advise our clients about the Brexit EU Settlement Scheme, and why this is critically important for EU national employees.
What is the EU Settlement Scheme?
One of the main implications of Brexit and the ending of the transition period is that on the stroke of midnight on 31st December 2020, what we know as ‘EU free movement’ will come to an end. EU free movement is what has allowed UK and EU nationals to travel, work, and study freely in any member state since the establishment of the Treaty of Maastricht in 1992. Without any scheme to replace this freedom of movement, EU nationals living and working in the UK who don’t already have permanent residency status would automatically lose their right to live here. The EU Settlement Scheme was introduced in March 2019 as a way to allow EU, EEA and Swiss citizens the right to continue living in the UK after 30th June 2021.
The EU Settlement Scheme application process is quick, easy, and entirely free. It is, however, only available to EU, EEA or Swiss citizens who are living in the UK by the end of 2020. Any EU, EEA or Swiss members of staff who arrive on or after the 1st January 2021 will not be eligible under the scheme, and will have to apply for a work visa.
Understanding Pre-Settled and Settled Status
As an employer of EU, EEA or Swiss citizens, you can reassure any affected staff members already living in the UK by the end of 2020 that their rights to live and work will be safe, as long as they apply to the EU Settlement Scheme before the deadline of 30th June 2021. When they apply, they will be granted one of two statuses depending on how long they have been living in the UK already:
- Settled status – EU, EEA or Swiss citizens who have been living in the UK for five or more years will receive full ‘settled status’. This will allow them to remain in the UK permanently to live, work, study, use the NHS, access public funds (e.g. benefits and pensions), and travel into and out of the UK freely. Any children born in the UK while they hold settled status will automatically become British citizens. After 12 months, settled status holders can apply for UK citizenship.
- Pre-settled status – this is granted to EU, EEA or Swiss citizens who have been living in the UK for less than five years. The idea of pre-settled status is that holders will be given five years to gain settled status. They will still have the right to live, work, study, use the NHS, access public funds, and travel into and out of the UK freely during this time.
How can I help my EU, EEA and Swiss employees apply for EU Settled Status?
At this point, many of your EU, EEA and Swiss employees may have already applied for and secured EU Settled Status, but if they have not, there are two main things you can do as an employer to support them.
Firstly, if they are unsure of why they need to apply, or if they are worried about applying for any reason, then you can reassure them that the process is safe and intended to protect their immigration status.
Secondly, for those who have not applied, provide them with the support and guidance to apply for the EU Settlement Scheme. Help them to gather the documents and information they need to apply, including their identity document (e.g. passport or biometric residence permit), and proof of residence (see the Home Office website for the list of documents which can be used to prove this). If the employee has been in the UK for five or more years, they will need to provide proof of continuous residence for this period. Depending on the employee’s English language ability, they may need more help and guidance with the application process.
How do EU, EEA and Swiss citizens apply for the EU Settlement Scheme?
The process of applying is completed online. The steps are as follows:
- Prove identity – this can be done quickly and easily by using the ‘EU Exit: ID Document Check’ iPhone app or Android app.
- Complete the online application – here, applicants will enter details relating to their residency in the UK (including address and national insurance number) and whether they have any criminal convictions. There is no cost to apply.
- Applicants receive a certificate of application by email confirming they have applied
- Wait for a decision from the Home Office by email confirming whether you have been accepted, and if so, with which status.
As an employer of EU/EEA or Swiss nationals, there is much you can do to assist your valued members of staff to secure their immigration status. If they have specific concerns which you cannot resolve, speak to our immigration Solicitors such as Reiss Edwards who can be contacted on 020 3744 2797 or by email at email@example.com.