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Jessica Pattinson

Phone: +44 20 7246 7518


Brexit latest: EU nationals who arrive during the post-Brexit transition period can stay

On February 28, the UK government announced that EU nationals who arrive in the UK after Brexit Day (scheduled for March 29, 2019), but before the end of the so-called “implementation” or “transition” period, will be able to stay permanently. This is a shift from the UK’s previous position that arrivals after Brexit Day would be entitled to remain on a temporary basis only and would become subject to immigration controls at the end of the transition period. While this announcement brings the UK closer to the EU’s stance on this matter, there are still some fundamental differences to be negotiated.

Overall this is positive news for employers, especially those who rely on EU talent, who will now have a longer period to build new talent pipelines to replace workers from the EU.

However, this concession may have come too late for some employers who have already lost valuable talent due to a general feeling of uncertainty among EU nationals and negativity around citizens’ rights. It remains to be seen whether this latest shift in negotiating position will be enough to convince EU nationals that the UK remains an attractive destination to work and build a career.

The UK’s original position was partly based on an assumption that EU nationals would rush to move to the UK before a given cut-off date. The dramatic fall in net migration from the EU since the referendum shows that there was never a risk of this happening.

EU nationals who arrive in the UK during the transition period will be subject to a registration system in line with what is already common practice in other EU member states. After accumulating five years’ residence in the UK an EU national will be able to apply for indefinite leave to remain (ILR), which will allow them to live in the UK permanently.

It should be noted that ILR is not the same as “settled status,” which EU nationals who arrive before Brexit Day will be able to apply for. The application process for ILR usually requires the applicant to satisfy minimum salary requirements, demonstrate English language ability and pass the “life in the UK” test. ILR is also more restrictive than settled status; for example, the holder of ILR will lose this status if they are absent from the UK for a period of two years, while for the holder of settled status, absence up to five years is permitted. It remains to be seen what the qualifying criteria for ILR in this situation will be, and whether a special procedure will be established that is more closely aligned to settled status.

Looking to the future, employers should also be encouraged by the following section of the announcement, which relates to a new immigration framework to be implemented post Brexit:

“… leaving the EU does not mean the end of migration between the EU and the UK. The new framework will therefore be designed to support the UK economy, enable businesses and key public sector workforces such as the National Health Service to access the skills they need, and underpin our trading relationships with partners in Europe and around the world.”

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Brexit latest: EU nationals who arrive during the post-Brexit transition period can stay

Brexodus continues

Net migration from the EU has plummeted from 165,000 in 2016 to 90,000 in 2017.

As expected, in the latest statistics released by the Office of National Statistics today, net migration from the EU has plummeted, with fewer EU nationals moving to the UK and more leaving:

2016 2017
EU nationals who immigrated to the UK 268,000 220,000
EU nationals who emigrated from the UK 103,000 130,000
Net migration +165,000 +90,000

This is of significant concern to industries and sectors that rely heavily on EU talent, with health and medical services, and farming and agriculture already dealing with considerable labour shortages.

The UK will officially leave the EU on March 29, 2019, and even though this is still over 12 months away, employers are already feeling the impact.

The other interesting statistic released today is the huge increase in EU nationals applying for British citizenship. In 2016 15,460 EU nationals applied for British citizenship—following the Brexit referendum this number more than doubled to 38,528 in 2017.

What we can take from both of these statistics is that the lack of certainty in citizens’ rights and future immigration policy following Brexit is forcing individuals to consider and protect their position in the UK. At one end of the spectrum we can see that EU nationals are securing their rights in the UK by naturalising as a British citizen, and at the other end EU nationals are reassessing whether the UK is the place to establish a life and career in the first place. Without certainty on citizens’ rights and future immigration policy we can expect these statistics to continue on the same trajectory.

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Brexodus continues

Home Affairs Committee issues report: Building consensus around immigration policy

The Home Affairs Committee consists of 11 Members of Parliament drawn from the three largest political parties (Conservative, Labour and the Scottish National). It has been chaired by Yvette Cooper MP (Labour) since 2016.

The Committee is currently managing a number of immigration-related inquiries. The most relevant to business immigration are:

  • Home Office’s capacity to deliver immigration services post-Brexit (launched October 5, 2017), which explores the capacity of the Home Office to meet the demands that Brexit will present, such as whether it can process applications from the 3 million EU nationals currently residing in the UK. Evidence has been gathered and we are currently awaiting the Committee’s report.
  • Building a consensus around immigration policy (launched October 17, 2017), which looks into the public perception of immigration and how the government might go about achieving greater consensus on immigration policy.

On January 15, 2017, the Committee published its report on the latter topic: “Immigration policy: basis for building consensus.” Click the UK Parliament website to read (i) the report summary, (ii) the report conclusions and recommendations and (iii) the full report.

To summarize the report’s main themes:

  • There is a lack of trust in official data, targets and decision-making on immigration policy.
  • Rules are complex and hard to understand, and there is concern that they are not being enforced.
  • Stronger coordination is needed between immigration policy and labor market policy.
  • Action is needed to address the impact of immigration, including appropriate investment in housing, public services and integration plans.

As the saying goes, perception is truth. While immigration rules are arguably easier to understand now than prior to the introduction of the points-based system, if public perception is the opposite then there is work still to be done.

If we look at the last 15 years there have been a number of events that have had an impact on the perception of immigration, such as the global financial crisis, the EU’s expansion into Eastern Europe and, most recently, the referendum on exiting the EU.

The report makes a number of compelling recommendations to address the public’s negative perception of immigration. With inevitable changes due to Brexit we have an opportunity to develop an immigration system that will be viewed positively by the wider population.

Some of the recommendations that are most relevant to business immigration and employers are:

  • Scrap the current net migration target and replace it with a new framework of targets and controls based on evidence.
  • Publish an annual migration report on migration flows, the economic contribution from migration and the measures taken by the government to manage impacts and pressures.
  • Link immigration policy for work purposes to strategy for improving investment in domestic skills and training with the target of reducing dependency on migrant labor.

Assess whether over reliance on migrant labor in some low-skilled jobs is due to poor pay, terms and conditions, and what restrictions and controls are needed to prevent undercutting and exploitation.


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Home Affairs Committee issues report: Building consensus around immigration policy

Trade deals and immigration

How will future trade deals impact UK immigration policy?

With Brexit negotiations between the UK and the European Union progressing, the UK is keen to start trade talks with the EU as soon as possible. While a trade deal with the EU is a priority, other countries, including India and Australia, have expressed that, in the fullness of time, they also would like to negotiate their own trade deals with the UK.

The UK’s Brexit Secretary, David Davis, has stated that he is looking for a “Canada Plus Plus Plus” trade deal with the EU, a reference to the recent deal between the EU and Canada. Labor mobility is a key element of that deal, making it easier for certain skilled professionals from Canada to work temporarily in the EU, and vice versa.

We can also learn from other trade deals:

  • The Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) trade deal currently being negotiated between 11 Pacific Rim countries (notably not including the US, which withdrew from the pact) is also looking to include an element of labor mobility. For example, it is proposed as part of this deal that it will be easier for Australian employers to recruit people from Canada, Chile, Japan, Malaysia, Mexico and Vietnam by exempting them from the usual requirement of advertising the role to Australians as part of the immigration process. In return, Australians will get reciprocal access to the labor markets of these six countries.
  • Likewise, one of the outcomes of the Australia-United States Free Trade Agreement (AUFTA), which came into effect in 2005, was the US E-3 visa, which is available only to Australians. The E-3 visa is similar to the H1-B visa, however more generous in that it has a separate quota of 10,500, is renewable indefinitely and has the additional benefit of the spouse of the main visa holder being able to work. In contrast, the H1-B visa has a quota of 65,000 (for applicants of all other nationalities), is capped at six years and the spouse of the main visa holder is not able to work. Singapore and Chile enjoy similar preferential immigration routes to the US as a result of their free trade deals.

One of the key arguments for voting to leave the EU was that the UK would be able to negotiate its own trade deals. So what are our likely trading partners saying?

  • Australia has spoken of the need for “greater access” to the UK for Australian business people.
  • India has already stated that the UK will need to relax immigration rules and make it easier for professionals and presumably students from India to come to the UK.
  • The EU is another matter entirely with many competing priorities and parties. The degree of labour mobility post Brexit will depend on whether we see a “soft Brexit” or a “hard Brexit”, which is still very much to be decided.

What is certain is that any trade deal the UK negotiates after Brexit will be about more than goods and services. Labor mobility will be a key element and it is therefore inevitable that any future trade deals the UK agrees will have an impact on immigration policy.

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Trade deals and immigration

UK Immigration Update: Monthly quota exhausted?

Monthly allocation of Tier 2 (General) Restricted Certificates of Sponsorship (RCoS) could be exhausted for the first time since 2015

When an organization wants to sponsor a new hire or permanent transfer from outside the UK they will more than likely need to be allocated a Tier 2 (General) RCoS via a monthly cycle managed by UK Visas and Immigration. This monthly cycle ranks applications against a points test with higher paid roles, and those where the occupation is recognized as being in shortage, or skilled to PhD level, scoring more points.

In total there are 20,700 RCoS to be allocated each year, divided into monthly allocations. Any RCoS not allocated in a given month are rolled over to the next month. The allocation is front-end loaded, meaning that there are a high number available earlier in the year, to ensure that there are sufficient numbers available for the busy summer months (when we typically see more demand due to recent graduates applying, together with families moving to the UK for the start of the school year).

Below are some statistics from the year so far. We can see from this that front-end loading the allocation ensures that there are sufficient RCoS over the summer; however, as soon as the allocation decreases to 1,500 we see that the balance rolled over immediately drops.

Application period

New RCoS allocation

Balance rolled over from previous month*

Total RCoS available for allocation*

Number allocated

March 6 –  April 5





April 6 – May 5





May 6 – June 5





June 6 – July 5





July 6 – August 5





August 6 – September 5





September 6 – October 5





October 6 – November 5





November 6 – December 5





*when other factors taken into account (for example, RCoS that have been returned unused to be allocated again, certificates allocated to Croatian nationals and exceptional approvals outside the monthly allocation).

Full statistics are available on the UKVI website.

The lower monthly allocation since October, coupled with limited rollover, means that for the December 2017 allocation there may be as few as 1,512 RCoS available for allocation. Official figures from December have yet to be released; however, we should be prepared to see lower-scoring applications rejected. Applications likely to be impacted are those where the salary is at the lower end of the scale and the occupation is not recognized as being in shortage or skilled to PhD level. If the allocation is not exhausted in December, then the risk remains that the allocation will be exhausted in January. The last time we saw the monthly limit exhausted was in summer 2015.

This could continue to be an issue for employers until April 2018, when the year starts again with the higher allocation of 2,200 RCoS. Employers should manage expectations and be prepared for lead times to increase due to the need to resubmit RCoS applications where they are not successful in a given month’s allocation.

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UK Immigration Update: Monthly quota exhausted?

Immigration briefing papers








This week saw the publication of two briefing papers—one by Bernard Ryan, Professor of Migration Law at the University of Leicester (for the Immigration Law Practitioners Association (ILPA); and the other by the Institute of Public Policy Research (IPPR)—that make significant contributions to the ongoing conversation on immigration policy, particularly in light of the inevitable changes due to Brexit.

The ILPA briefing paper, “Who will remain after Brexit? Ensuring protection for all persons resident under EU law,” identifies gaps concerning both EU citizens and third-country nationals who, potentially, will be negatively impacted by Brexit as they are not included in the government’s current thinking. These groups include, for example:

  • EU citizens and family members resident outside the UK at the point of Brexit who have a history of residence in the UK and may need or desire to resume residence in the UK in the future; and
  • EU nationals whose primary residence is outside of the UK but who, for either business/work or personal reasons, have a second place of residence in the UK. Post Brexit, these individuals may fail the required residency requirements to obtain residence or settled status, given their high absences from the UK, and instead be treated as visitors to the UK, a status that would obviously not permit them to work in the UK.

A summary of the paper, together with the full version, is available here.

The IPPR paper, “An immigration strategy for the UK: Six proposals to manage migration for economic success,” addresses the need to link immigration with the strategic priorities of the UK, particularly economic ones, in a post-Brexit world, and to understand the role that immigration plays in meeting these. The six proposals referred to in the title are:

This paper serves to remind us of the enormous challenge facing policymakers as they seek to ensure that all affected parties are captured in their thinking and that adequate protections are included in both the withdrawal agreement and future UK immigration legislation.

  1. Immigration strategy should clearly differentiate between types of immigration.
  2. Immigration strategy should actively address geographical imbalances in the economy.
  3. Immigration strategy should be designed to spur innovation.
  4. Immigration strategy should forge a new compact between employers and government, as a means to achieving a high-pay, high-productivity economy.
  5. Immigration strategy should support the UK’s trade balance.
  6. Immigration strategy should promote equality and integration.

In the lead-up to what will inevitably be an overhaul of the immigration system due to Brexit, the IPPR paper reminds us of the opportunity this brings, and the need to be active in the ongoing immigration debate.

The full report is available to download at the IPPR website. (The four-page summary is well worth a read.)

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Immigration briefing papers