What impact will Brexit have on EU nationals currently working in the UK?
It is not yet certain what rules on immigration and free movement of people will be in place following the UK's withdrawal from the EU. However, employers can reassure employees who are EU nationals that there is no immediate change to their right to live and work in the UK. The same is true of nationals of the other countries of the European Economic Area (EEA) (Iceland, Norway and Liechtenstein) and of Switzerland.
The UK has a period of up to two years within which to negotiate the terms of its withdrawal. This began with the triggering of art.50 of the Treaty on European Union on 29 March 2017. The rights of EU nationals working in the UK has been a key element of the negotiations.
On 8 December 2017, the UK Government announced that it had reached an agreement with the European Commission on citizens' rights. The Government has updated its guidance on the status of EU citizens in the UK with details of the joint proposal. The proposal is not yet law and is subject to change, but provides a strong indication of what the post-Brexit position will be.
Under the joint proposal, EU nationals residing in the UK on 29 March 2019, the date of the UK's withdrawal from the EU, will be eligible for a new "settled" status when they have been resident for five years. This will give them the right to live and work in the UK indefinitely. Under the new system, EU nationals will apply either for settled status, if they have already been resident for five years, or for a temporary residence permit giving them the right to remain until they reach the five-year mark. The registration scheme is expected to be available before the end of 2018 and will remain open for applications during the implementation period, which is likely to be around two years from 29 March 2019.
Individuals who have already obtained evidence of permanant residence status under the current system will need to apply again under the new system, to obtain settled status. The Government has said that this process will be simple and free of charge.