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Immigration information

The Government sets out plans in the event of a ‘no deal’ Brexit.

The legal implications of Brexit remain unclear and despite the general uncertainty surrounding the ramifications of the UK’s departure from the EU there is now some clarity in respect of immigration and employment issues.

With only 5 weeks to go until Britain’s scheduled departure date from the EU on 29 March 2019, the likelihood of a ‘no deal’ Brexit is still a possibility, so the government has put plans in place by way of an Immigration Bill to enable them to confirm EU citizens’ right to work in the UK in the event of a “no deal”.

Up to 29 March, free movement will continue to apply. However, if Britain leaves the EU without agreeing a deal, the government will seek to end free movement as soon as possible. EEA citizens and their family members already resident in the UK by 29 March 2019 will be able to stay in the UK and work freely subject to the requirement for them to apply for settled status under the EU Settlement Scheme by 31 December 2020.  However, EEA citizens and their family members arriving in the UK after 29 March who wish to stay in the UK for longer than 3 months, will need to apply for permission and secure a European Temporary Leave to Remain (ETLR), which is valid for a further 3 years and will include permission to work and study. Family members of EEA citizens who themselves are not a citizen of an EEA country will need to apply for a family permit in advance of entering the UK.

ETLR will not lead to indefinite leave to remain in the UK or to settled status under the EU Settlement Scheme. To stay for longer than three years, relevant employees will need to make a further application under the UK’s new skills-based future immigration system after 1 January 2021.  Applicants for ETLR will be subject to identity, criminality and security checks. Applicants will also be charged a fee which will be confirmed soon.

In practical terms, the Government has recognised that it will not be possible for employers to distinguish between those who were resident before 29 March 2019 and those that arrived afterwards.  Employers can continue to rely on an EU citizen’s passport or national identity card as evidence of their right to work until the end of December 2020.  Once the new immigration system is introduced at the beginning of 2021 employers will be required to check an EU citizens’ right to work using the Home Office online system.

The Home Secretary believes the new single skills-based immigration system, which will operate from 2021, will enable employers to attract the skills they need from around the world, while ensuring net migration is reduced to sustainable levels.