Immigration is and will continue to be a fundamental consideration for Brexit. The Government is responding to public concern about immigration however, it is not just Brexit which is making life difficult.
Most recent insight from Theresa May suggests we won’t leave the EU until early spring 2019. Until then, from an immigration perspective, EU nationals must stay calm although not be complacent.
All EU policies regarding free movement will remain in place for all EU citizens until we actually exit. What is important at this point is the length of residence in the UK.
EU nationals who have lived in the UK for five years should be eligible to get permanent residence status and should definitely consider this as it will preclude them from immigration control after our 2019 exit. A further 12 months as a resident means they can then apply for citizenship.
It’s trickier for those that have lived here fewer than five years. EU nationals may still be eligible to apply for an EEA registration certificate confirming their status as EU nationals protected by EU treaty right. It’s rumoured the Government might try to backdate immigration control to the Referendum date, in which case an EEA certificate would be helpful.
As we prepare to leave the EU, businesses who rely on a large number of EU workers will have to upskill their legal and HR teams.
Many business are worried about losing important, highly skilled staff, but there is concern across all sectors, particularly for those that rely on large numbers of lower skilled Eastern European workers. For example, the role of a care assistant doesn’t qualify for a skilled visa, so there is worry around how we will cope with the loss of these employees post Brexit.
Businesses will have to be prepared when cooperating with the Home Office to avoid cases like the Byron Burger chain raid and some should even consider supporting their employees with free legal advice.
From a client perspective, I think we will need to keep an eye on Ultra High Net Worth clients and the private wealth sector. After Cameron doubled the required investment from £1m to £2m for the Tier 1 (Investor) visa application, we’ve seen a significant drop in UHNW clients using the investor visa. We’re seeing UHNW clients considering different visa options, such as Entrepreneur, and even considering other European investment options. For global firms like ours, this means we have to be more innovative in finding solutions for clients. Ultimately, we should bear in mind that the private wealth sector will change and we will have to adapt to this.
With so much ongoing uncertainty around Brexit and immigration, we need to remain calm, but I would advise all businesses and individuals keep up to date with EU immigration law well in advance of the legal implications Brexit will inevitably herald.