For the external observer, it can be very difficult to get an informed view of how well the Brexit process is progressing given the polarised and emotive debate that still persists more than 18 months after the referendum. It was therefore both encouraging and enlightening to take part at the meeting of the Home Office’s primary employer forum on immigration policy on January 19, where the CIPD was one of around 15 members contributing research and insight towards the process.

Moving forward, the forum will provide a great opportunity for the CIPD to influence the UK Government’s immigration policy on behalf of its members. However, the Home Office won’t start formal work on this until the Migration Advisory Committee (MAC) publishes its advice later in the year. So in the meantime, the government is following up the progress made on EU citizens’ rights at last December’s EU Council meeting and piloting a new application process for EU nationals, which received unanimous support.

Unanimous support for vastly streamlined process

Having heard the stories from individuals and employers and seen first-hand the complexity and time taken to apply for visa status — especially among non-EU nationals — the most riveting part of the meeting was obtaining an early preview of the new system for processing applications from EU nationals. It would appear that the days of having to fill in complicated forms, collating documents and sending them by post are over. Instead, applicants simply upload relevant documents and photos online in a process that should take a matter of minutes.

Another longstanding complaint from current applicants, especially employers, is the fear of making a mistake and the grave consequences they suffer if they do. A striking feature of the new system is the provision of a second chance for applicants to submit documents or information online in the event of an error. In addition, applicants will also be able to input data, save changes and return to the form at a later date if they prefer. The system will also allow others to pay for the settled status document, which may appeal to some employers who are keen to do all they can to make their employees feel valued.

The new scheme is due to begin in late 2018, but EU citizens won’t actually need status documentation until 2021. Reflecting how simple and streamlined the process looks set to become, the government envisages putting in place a service level agreement of around 2 weeks for users of the new system. For those EU citizens who have permanent residence or indefinite leave to remain, they will simply need to provide an identity document and recent photograph to secure settled status free of charge and to obtain the compulsory ‘settled status’ document.

Development on public policy

With regards to policy developments, the Home Office reports that it will publish a White Paper ‘soon’ on EU citizens’ rights and the border arrangements between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland. The first iteration of its EU immigration policy however, is not imminent due to ongoing discussions with the EU and the timing of the MAC’s report on the economic and social impacts of Brexit, due later in the year. Our recent meeting with the MAC chair provided another vehicle for promoting the interests of CIPD members, especially concerning the need for a low-skilled route for EU migration.

Other areas of concern around immigration include EU citizens’ expectations of settlement when they come to the UK to live and work in the future as well as the current high levels of demand for certificates of sponsorship for non-EU nationals where the salary threshold is currently running at £50,000.

The CIPD will be meeting with senior Home Office officials on a monthly basis, so if you are currently experiencing challenges around the issues covered in this update, the CIPD would be delighted to hear from you.

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About the CIPD

At the CIPD, we champion better work and working lives. We help organisations to thrive by focusing on their people, supporting economies and society for the future. We lead debate as the voice for everyone wanting a better world of work.