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. The rights of EU nationals working in the UK has been a key element of the negotiations between the UK and the EU.
On 8 December 2017, the UK Government announced that it had reached an agreement with the EU on citizens' rights. Further agreement on the terms of the transition period was announced on 19 March 2018 and this has been confirmed in the draft withdrawal agreement published on 14 November 2018. While the withdrawal agreement has been signed off by the other EU member states, it has not been approved by the UK Parliament.
The Government has published guidance, Settled and pre-settled status for EU citizens and their families, that reflects the agreement on citizens' rights.
Under the agreement, there will be a transition period, beginning on 29 March 2019 (the withdrawal date) and ending on 31 December 2020. EU nationals residing in the UK before 31 December 2020 will be eligible for settled status when they have been resident for five years. This will give them the right to live and work in the UK indefinitely. Those who do not have five years' continuous residence can apply for pre-settled status, giving them the right to remain until they reach the five-year mark, at which point they can apply for settled status. The registration scheme is currently being piloted on a phased basis and will be fully open by 30 March 2019. Provided there is a Brexit deal, it will remain open for applications until 30 June 2021.
In the event of a "no-deal" Brexit, the Government's position is that the transition period for EU nationals in the UK would not apply, so only EU nationals who are resident in the UK by 29 March 2019 would be eligible to apply under the settlement scheme. Those EU nationals would have until 31 December 2020 to apply for either pre-settled status or settled status.
Whether or not there is a deal, individuals who have already obtained evidence of permanent 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.