With the UK due to leave the European Union (EU) within the next few months, more than three million EU citizens, including many working in the NHS, may feel unsure about whether they can continue living and working in the UK.
On 30 March 2019, the government’s EU Settlement Scheme came into full operation. The scheme is designed to ensure that your staff from other EU countries are able to continue working in the UK. To help any of your staff who could be affected by the process, here are eight key points you should be aware of.
- Any EU citizen who has been living in the UK continuously for five years by the UK’s leaving date – as yet unknown – will have the right to live permanently in the UK. This is known as “settled status”. The same rights apply to their family members. Family members who are not living in the UK on the UK’s leaving date may be able to join someone with settled status, but the family relationship needs to have existed on the UK’s leaving date and be continuing.
- EU citizens who arrived in the UK before the UK’s leaving date but have not lived continuously in the UK for five years by the UK’s leaving date can stay until they reach the five-year threshold. This known as “pre-settled status”. At that point, they would have the right to apply for settled status.
- The EU Settlement Scheme opened on 30 March 2019. The final deadline for applying will be 30 June 2021. EU citizens may be able to apply after this date if they are joining a family member in the UK (see point 1 above). However, if the UK leaves without a deal the deadline for applying will be bought forward to 31 December 2020.
- Applications for settled status must be made online at the gov.uk portal. The Home Office will only request original documents if it has reasonable doubt about the authenticity of scanned documents. Currently, there is no provision for applications to be made by phone or post, although staff who are struggling and require digital support can call 03333 445 675 for help with their online application. Face-to-face support is available at various centres across the country as well as home visits in some areas.
- It costs nothing to apply, as the government has scrapped its proposed application fees. Anyone who applied during the pilot scheme and paid a fee will be reimbursed.
- Under the previous system, European citizens could apply for permanent residence documents after they have lived for five years in the UK. This does not, however, mean that they do not have to apply for settled status. The permanent residence document will no longer be valid after 31 December 2020. Therefore, holders of these documents will need to apply for settled status, although they will not be required to prove they have five years continuous residence in the UK.
- If a member of your staff asks you for help, there is an advice line specifically for organisations who are helping others to apply. The number is 0300 790 0566 and the line is open Monday to Friday from 8am to 8pm, and 9:30 am to 4:30 pm on weekends.
- If the UK leaves the EU without a deal, the government would be free to adopt new policies with respect to EU nationals. However, any such change would require legislation to change current legal rights and could not be implemented until after the UK leaves the EU. Therefore, EU citizens who can show that they have been continuously resident in the UK for at least five years by the date on which the UK leaves the EU will generally have a legal right to remain in the UK permanently, regardless of any changes in government policy.
Rachel Halliday is a senior case handler in the trade union law group at Thompsons Solicitors. All information correct as of 19 June 2019. For more information visit the Thompsons website. Legal Eye does not offer legal advice on individual cases. MiP members in need of personal advice should immediately contact their MiP rep.