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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

Stretched resources: immigration and gender pay equity

Two stories in the UK headlines today relate to stretched resources: The Home Office preparing its immigration system for life after Brexit, and the Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) enforcing employers to publish information on their gender pay gap.

Immigration system

According to the British House of Commons, it is unlikely the UK will have an immigration system in place when Britain leaves the EU in March 2019. The government has not published its future policy. This is causing distress for EU citizens living in Britain, and for UK businesses that rely on EU citizens.

An estimated three million EU citizens will need to register as having the right to be in the UK. Border force agencies will struggle to carry out checks on EU citizens arriving in the country. Agencies like Visas and Immigration, Immigration Enforcement and other departments of the Home Office will also feel the impact of the extra caseload. These services are already finding it difficult to cope, resulting in occasional poor decision-making. Dentons has worked with clients to help overcome these poor decisions.

The UK government is due to publish a white paper on immigration policy; already postponed from last autumn, it seems unlikely to see release before March 2019. Ministers working on the white paper have said the delay is to consider the Migration Advisory Committee’s report due in September 2018. Dentons contributed to this report, so we hope to see the collated views of our clients reflected in the future shape of UK immigration rules.

Gender pay equity

By April 4, 2018 companies with 250 or more employees are required to report the gender pay gap in their workforces. Questions have already been raised about whether the gender pay gap regulations under the Equality Act have teeth to motivate business to properly comply. On top of this, it seems likely the EHRC will struggle with having sufficient resources to enforce the regulations.

However, EHRC Chief Executive Rebecca Hilsenrath has distanced the commission from the responsibility of ensuring compliance. She has described the EHRC to the Financial Times as a “strategic enforcer” that looks at novel points of law”, and “at cases which will clarify the law”, and “where impact lies.” Therefore, the EHRC does not see itself as taking on all breaches of the Equality Act.

This bears out in the EHRC’s budget information: The government is not allocating additional resources for work on gender pay reporting. The EHRC will seek to increase its budget if many companies fail to comply with gender pay reporting. Having already seen its funding cut by 25 percent in the 2016–2020 spending review, a crystal ball is probably not needed to predict how any request for a budget increase will be answered.

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Stretched resources: immigration and gender pay equity

Cooking up a storm: Tier 2 chefs

 
 
 
  
 
 
       
 
 
 
 
 

UK immigration rules make a distinction between chefs working in takeaway establishments and those working in restaurants.

If the job requires five or more years of relevant experience in a role of at least equivalent status to the one in which the visa applicant is proposing to start, and the job is neither a fast food outlet, standard fare outlet or takeaway outlet, then the position will fall under the chef roles on the Tier 2 Shortage Occupation List.

This has recently been the subject of High Court cases in which chefs argued that it’s arbitrary and unreasonable to exclude from the Shortage Occupation List those working at restaurants that provide high-quality cuisine just because the establishment also, incidentally, happens to offer takeaway service. The chefs argued that all skilled chef roles should be on the Shortage Occupation List, and that the focus should be on the nature of the establishment rather than the fact that it incidentally provides takeaway food.

The Secretary of State argued otherwise and the court agreed, finding that the exclusion of jobs in takeaway, fast food and standard fare outlets from the Shortage Occupation List was justified. The court based its decision on evidence provided by the government that takeaway establishments were generally not associated with the kind of cuisine requiring highly skilled chefs.

In view of the rise in the number of gig economy delivery drivers delivering takeaway orders from fine-dining establishments, this is surely an issue that will rumble on.

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Cooking up a storm: Tier 2 chefs

UK government updates on Settled Status

The UK government has published further details on how the new settled status scheme for EU citizens and their family members will work as the UK leaves the EU. In the technical document sent to the European Commission, the government has pledged that this new system will be streamlined, low-cost and user-friendly, and will be designed with input from EU citizens.

EU citizens will have up to two years following the UK’s exit from the EU to apply to stay in the UK and obtain settled status. Applications will be decided based solely on the criteria set out in the Withdrawal Agreement and there will be no discretion for refusal based on other reasons. The criteria are not, as yet, conclusive. However, the government has confirmed that they will be simple, transparent and will minimize the need for documentary evidence. Unsuccessful applicants will have a statutory right of appeal in line with current rights provided by the Free Movement Directive.

There are also plans to set up a voluntary application process to provide those currently residing in the UK with the option to get new settled status at their earliest convenience—a recognition of the administrative challenge of granting status to potentially over three million EU citizens and their families.

Negotiations between the UK and EU are ongoing.

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UK government updates on Settled Status

Scotland: A separate system for global mobility?

The Times has revealed plans by Scottish ministers to pave the way for a bespoke immigration system.

Scottish ministers are concerned that Brexit will lead to a fall in immigrant workers, who are vital to the Scottish economy. Alasdair Allan, the Scottish government’s Europe minister, raised this as an issue to the Europe Committee earlier this year. “The Scottish government,” he said, “will continue to call for a less restrictive and more humane system from the UK which recognises individual and demographic circumstances.”

Scottish ministers plan to present to the UK government next summer an “options paper” that will set out some concessions from the UK immigration system. The most far-reaching of the requested options could be Scotland having its own, points-based immigration system with Holyrood in control. At the other end of the spectrum, the Scottish government may simply look to expand the Scotland Shortage Occupation List or reintroduce a post-study work route to give foreign graduates the chance to stay in Scotland to find work. The Shortage Occupation List contains occupations the country has trouble filling from inside Scotland. Concessions are made to the usual immigration process to bring in workers for these roles from outside the EU.

We will bring you more details as they are disclosed.

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Scotland: A separate system for global mobility?

Mind the gap

Employment law issues seem to be rife with gaps at the moment. We have already reported on the gender pay gap, brought to the fore by the UK’s new reporting regulations for gender pay that took effect on April 6, 2017. However, it looks like we are now dealing with another gap: the skills gap that commentators believe will be one of the consequences of the UK exiting the EU. In fact, we are already seeing the effects, as potential migrant workers are reluctant to come to the UK at a time of such uncertainty. As a result, there is a significant shortage of workers to fill such typical blue collar jobs as drivers, electrician assistants and construction workers. Sectors such as healthcare, retail and construction are among those feeling the squeeze, as they are heavily reliant on EU migrant workers. A study by the Recruitment and Employment Confederation (REC) points out that EU migrants are over-represented in low-skilled jobs, filling 15 percent of them, compared with 7 percent by non-EU migrants and 78 per cent by Britons.

Furthermore, Brexit has led to curbed planned growth and investments for one in four small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs), according to the latest “UK SME Confidence Index” from Vistage. And the shortage of workers has forced employers to raise starting salaries. According to the REC study, in August salaries increased at the fastest pace in nearly two years. This trend may not be sustainable over the long haul if it impacts too negatively on profitability and business sustainability.

In the meantime, automation and digitalization have been proposed as possible solutions to bridge the gap. However, whether replacement of people with machines is quite what voters intended back in June 2016 when the referendum took place is questionable at best.

 

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Mind the gap

MAC to examine the role EU nationals play in the UK

The UK government has tasked the Migration Advisory Committee (MAC), the government’s independent advisers on migration, to examine the role EU nationals’ play in the UK economy and society.

Amber Rudd, the Home Secretary, engaged the MAC to look into the British labor market, the overall role of migration in the wider economy, and how a modern industrial strategy should align with the UK’s immigration system. The MAC will consult with a wide cross-section of businesses, employer organizations and EU citizens working in the UK.

The importance of this initiative should not be underestimated, as free movement will end when the UK exits the EU. The government is working on plans to develop the flow of migration from Europe. (See: The rights of EU citizens in the UK, The Global Mobility Review, July 13, 2017 blog post). The UK and the European Commission had key discussions at the end of July, and the next round of negotiations is scheduled for late August 2017.

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MAC to examine the role EU nationals play in the UK

The rights of EU citizens in the UK

The UK government has published a policy paper setting out its offer to EU citizens and their families residing in the UK regarding their right to remain in the country post-Brexit. The offer differs depending on how long a person has been in the UK.

People who have been continuously living in the UK for five years will be able to apply to stay indefinitely by getting “settled status.” A settled status residence document will be issued to prove an individual’s permission to continue living and working in the UK. Those already with an EU permanent residence document will be required to apply. The application process should come online before the UK leaves the EU, hopefully in 2018. The government has pledged to make the process as streamlined and user-friendly as possible.

Other EU citizens in the UK will be subject to a “cut-off date” after which they will no longer be automatically entitled to stay. The date is still to be negotiated, but may fall at any point between March 29, 2017 (the date that Article 50 was triggered) and the date that the UK leaves the EU.

EU citizens who arrived in the UK before the cut-off date, but who have not been here for five years when the UK leaves the EU, will be able to apply to stay temporarily until they have reached the five-year threshold, at which time they also can apply for settled status as set out above.

EU citizens who arrive in the UK after the cut-off date will be able to apply for permission to remain after the UK leaves the EU, under future immigration arrangements for EU citizens. The arrangements have yet to be determined, but the government stated that there should be no expectation by this group of people that they will obtain settled status.

Please visit The Global Mobility Review next month for further information on this development.

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The rights of EU citizens in the UK

Status of EU citizens in the UK

The Home Office has sent a communication to interested parties following the government’s publication of a paper outlining its offer to EU citizens in the UK. The government has reiterated its position that no action need currently be taken. “The UK will remain a member of the EU until March 2019 and there will be no change to the rights and status of EU citizens living in the UK, nor UK nationals living in the EU, during this time. So, EU citizens do not need to apply for documentation confirming their status now.”

The government’s policy paper sets out that the government will be asking EU citizens to make an application to the Home Office for a residence document demonstrating their new settled status. It aims to make the process as “streamlined and user-friendly as possible for all individuals, including those who already hold a permanent residence document under current free movement rules.” It is expected the new application system will be up and running in 2018.

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Status of EU citizens in the UK

Adult dependent relatives—judicial review challenge

The Immigration Rules pertaining to visa applications ‎made by adult dependent relatives of UK citizens were changed in July 2012. According to the Rules, an “adult dependent relative” must be a close family member of the UK sponsor, i.e., a parent, grandparent. The Rules also require that:

  • The applicant must—because of age, illness or disability—require long-term personal care to perform everyday tasks.
  • The applicant must be unable—even with the practical and financial help of the UK relative—to get the required care in the country where he or she is living, either because it is not available and there is no person in that country who can reasonably provide it, or because it is not affordable.

There was concern at the time of the Rules change that the Home Office (the government department responsible for immigration, passports, counter-terrorism and crime policy), had tightened the Rules too much.

Home Office statistics have borne out the validity of that concern. Since the Home Office changed the Rules, the average number of successful applications each year decreased by at least 93 per cent!

BritCits, an advocacy group, challenged the current requirements. The organization, which campaigns for fair family immigration rules that don’t divide families or force British citizens into exile, brought a judicial review application in the High Court of Justice (BritCits vs. SSHD) challenging the legality of the Rules. It argued that the Rules defeated the purpose of the law under which they were made; that the Rules raised expectations without any real possibility of those expectations being met; and that the Rules interfered with family life.

The High Court issued a judgment dismissing the judicial review application. BritCits requested and was granted permission to appeal. This was dismissed by the Court of Appeal.

Applicants applying in this category will have to make applications with the knowledge that their chance of success is exceptionally low and that despite a recent challenge to the Immigration Rules, they will remain as promulgated. Applicants will continue to have to pull together as much evidence as they can to show that they meet the requirements. Although the Rules require scrutiny of the available care in the adult dependent relative’s home country, the Home Office will consider whether the care is “reasonable” for the applicant and “of the required level” for the applicant. This can include the psychological and emotional needs of elderly parents, for example. Taking such an approach could mean the difference between an application for an adult dependent relative being accepted or rejected.

If BritCits pursues its challenge to the Supreme Court we will of course keep you informed.

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Adult dependent relatives—judicial review challenge