The EU Settlement Scheme
Although 2020 has been taken over by the Covid-19 pandemic, Brexit has still very much been in the forefront of British politics since the UK’s departure from the EU on 31 January 2020. Since our departure, we have been the subject of a transition period which is due to end on New Years’ Eve. During the transition period, freedom of movement has continued and nationals from the European Economic Area (EEA) have had the right to live and work in the UK as before. From January 1 2021 however, EU nationals wanting to enter the UK for work will need to meet with new immigration requirements.
When it comes to EU nationals who are already living and working in the UK by 31 December 2020, these individuals can apply to remain in the UK indefinitely through the European Union Settlement Scheme (EUSS). The EUSS will allow an employee (and their family members) to get the immigration status they need to in order to continue living, working and studying in the UK beyond 30 June 2021. Employees who do not apply through the scheme by June 2021 and who do not have other residency rights will be subject to deportation and their continued employment will be unlawful.
Applications under EUSS are open until 30 June 2021 and an individual’s current immigration rights will not be affected until then. Whilst staff shouldn’t be forced to apply under the EUSS (on the basis that this might amount to unlawful discrimination), employers can signpost the EUSS to affected employees and offer support to them when it comes to the application process. In many cases, it will be to an employer’s advantage to offer support of this nature especially where they employ overseas workers whose services they would like to retain following the end of the transition period. Under the new points based immigration system, there will be no mechanism for UK employers to employ overseas workers from the EU to fulfil low paid, unskilled work. Employers who rely heavily on an existing foreign workforce to perform these duties should therefore give consideration to supporting employees through the EUSS application process as this will help to secure their rights to live and work in the UK, and provide business stability.
The application process is quite easy to complete and it can be done online. The application is free and there is application guidance on the gov.uk website which provides information about what information in terms of proving identity and residence is needed. Employers can choose whether to give employees time during working hours to complete the application although there is no obligation to do so.
Except in a few cases, EEA and Swiss citizens resident un the UK by 31 December 2020 and their non-EU family members needs to apply to the EUSS. Irish citizens don’t need to apply but they can if they want to. An individual’s non-Irish, non-British family member will need to apply for the EUSS if they want to stay in the UK. A family member of a relevant person of Northern Ireland is also able to make an application to the Scheme.
If an individual receives settled status (also known as indefinite leave to remain or enter) means that there is no time limit on how long they can stay in the UK. An individual can go onto apply for British citizenship if they meet the requirements and want to apply.
If an individual fails to apply under the EUSS and acquire settled status before 30 June 2021 will render them an “illegal immigrant” and subject to the removal from the UK. Given an employer has specific obligations in respect of ensuring employees have proper immigration status, it will be very important for employers to ensure that affected employees are on top of their EUSS applications and obtain the relevant permissions. Employers are encouraged to write to their employees regarding the EUSS to ensure an audit trail is in place.
If you would like to know more about the EUSS, the UK’s new points-based immigration system or how we can help you to stabilise your workforce in light of Brexit please contact Charlotte Geesin, Head of Employment Law and Business Immigration on 01274 864999.