Being a law abiding type, it’s not something I say often, but my recommendation is that employers should disregard current Government advice about the employment status of EU nationals. It seems that the Government is trying to avoid overloading the system with tens of thousands of EU nationals applying for permanent residence through the course of 2018. So the Home Office website deters applications, and advises a “wait-and-see” policy on Brexit. Our opinion is that this is potentially to the detriment of employers and employees who should act now.
So what is the current position?
Under the Regulations, EU nationals are entitled to permanent residence if they have been resident in the UK as a qualifying worker for a period of five years, and have not spent more than six months out of the UK in any calendar year. This will provide these individuals with settled status. Also, irrespective of what the outcome of the Brexit negotiations are, these individuals will be allowed to remain in the UK post Brexit. In addition, after one year of holding permanent residence, these individuals will be eligible to apply to be naturalised as a British citizen.
So our recommendation is that all eligible EU nationals working in the UK who have not already done so, and who wish to remain in the UK in the longer term, should apply now for permanent residence. So don’t wait for Brexit to result in a situation that is unfavourable to your plans.
What about those EU employees that haven’t been residing in the UK as qualified workers for as long as five years, and wish to remain, post Brexit?
Under the Regulations, an EU national exercising Treaty rights as a worker is entitled to apply for a five year Residence Permit. EU nationals do not need to apply for such permits in order to work here, as their passports or national identity cards are sufficient to allow them to do so. So, in the absence of a need to apply for a Residence Permit, shorter term residents of the UK who originate from the EU generally do not bother. This is a mistake. The reason we are advising clients to make an application now is because, post Brexit, EU nationals may not have automatic rights to live and work in the UK.
The cost of applying for permanent residence and a Residence Permit is a £65 application fee plus legal costs, which can be for a fixed agreed fee.
We see daily how unpredictable and subject to change the Government’s Brexit strategy is; and this is before the EU has considered its proposals. Our advice is clear: Act now and don’t wait until it is too late!