The UK has expanded its EU Settlement Scheme to cover citizens of all EEA countries and Switzerland and clarified the scheme's 'no-deal' provisions as Parliament braces for a series of crucial votes in March.
A further ‘meaningful vote’ on the Withdrawal Agreement is expected on 12 March. If the agreement is again rejected, MPs will then vote on whether to opt for a no-deal Brexit or delay it by extending Article 50.
The EU Settlement Scheme enables EU citizens to continue living and working in the UK* after Brexit and is currently open for applications in a live test phase. EU citizens having lived in the UK for five years at the date of their application can apply for settled status, or pre-settled status if they have not yet accrued five years of residency. Settled status allows EU citizens to stay in the UK indefinitely, and to apply for British citizenship if eligible. Pre-settled status grants a further stay of five years in the UK, during which time the recipient may reapply for full settled status once residency requirements are met.
Application will be free of charge, but applicants during the test phase will need to pay the previously set fee which would then be refunded. When the scheme is fully open on 30 March, the process will be fee-free from the outset.
Citizens of Norway, Iceland, Liechtenstein and Switzerland already in the UK may also apply to the scheme from 30 March onwards.
For employers looking to recruit from these and EU countries, new entrants arriving before 31 December 2020 may apply first for pre-settled status and then as mentioned above, reapply for full settled status once five years’ residence has been accrued.
EU/EEA/Swiss nationals would have until 30 June 2021 to apply to the settlement scheme unless the UK Parliament votes to exit the EU without an agreement.
In a no-deal scenario, those nationals already in the UK will only have until 31 December 2020 to apply while new arrivals from 30 March 2019 will not be able to use the scheme at all.
Citizens from the EU/EEA/Switzerland will still be able to enter the UK after a no-deal Brexit to visit, work and study for up to three months without a visa, but must apply for Temporary Leave to Remain if they wish to stay beyond the three months. This leave if granted, will allow recipients an additional 36 months' stay. This period is not extendable and will not guarantee a route to UK settlement. Those wishing to stay beyond this leave period must qualify under the UK’s new skills-based immigration system, which will begin from 2021.
With much still to be decided over Brexit, the EU Settlement Scheme is one area where there is relative certainty. The CIPD urges organisations with EU nationals in their employ to familiarise themselves with the resources available to guide their employees about when and how to register their settlement status. They should review their business continuity as well as workforce planning and keep communications open with staff, particularly through the rapid changes expected in the coming weeks. The CIPD’s Brexit Hub will continue to provide further news and guidance for members and employers.
* Citizens of the Republic of Ireland do not need to apply to the EU Settlement Scheme or take any other action to travel in and out of or continue living and working in the UK. The rights of Irish citizens are protected under the Common Travel Area arrangements.
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