29 March marked the one year anniversary since Article 50 was triggered. The last 12 months have seen a number of key developments. Following the end of the first stage of negotiations in Brussels, there is now an agreement in place for the rights of EU nationals and their family members living in the UK. Last week saw the announcement that the UK and EU have finally agreed a deal on the transition period.
Phase One: from now until we exit the EU
In December 2017, the UK government and the European Commission issued a joint report at the end of the first stage of negotiations which had focussed on what would happen to EU nationals and their family members currently living in the UK.
It was agreed that EEA nationals will have to register for ‘settled status’ once they have accumulated five years continuous residence. This will allow them to live and work permanently in the UK and ultimately apply for citizenship. The latest reports state that the Home Office hope to have the registration system up and running by late 2018.
Phase Two: the transition period from 30 March 2019 to 31 December 2020
It was announced in March that the EU and the UK government had finally agreed terms for the transition period which will run from the day after we exit on 30 March 2019 to 31 December 2020. Despite reports that the government wanted to impose restrictions on workers entering the UK from the EU, the status quo will continue; EU nationals and their family members who arrive during the transition period will be able to enter, reside and work on virtually the same terms as they do now, as will UK workers in EU countries. They will be able to remain in the UK and apply for ‘settled status’ after they have resided here for five years as long as they arrive before 31 December 2020.
Direct family members and unmarried partners of EU nationals will be able to join the EU national on the same basis as they do now until end of transition period. Other extended family members will not be able to join EU nationals after we exit the EU on 29 March 2019.
Phase Three: the new immigration system for EU nationals and their family members post 1 January 2021
As it stands, from 1st January 2021, there will be a new immigration system which will control how EU nationals and their family members visit, live and work in the UK. The details on this are still unclear but the Migration Advisory Committee has, this week, issued an interim report on their investigation into the EU workers and the UK labour market.
Insecurity about the future is leading many EU workers to take the decision to leave the UK, and many employers are struggling to fill roles. It is important that your EU employees are made aware of the plans for the registration system so that they can be reassured that their ability to stay in the UK will be maintained.