Whilst this article does not have a main focus on Brexit, it seems it would fall short if it completely glossed over looming Brexit Day. Brexit Day is set for 29 March 2019. Please read our article to get an update on the latest position for EU citizens in the UK.

MAC interim report

Thank you to those of you who completed our questionnaire to input into the MAC (Migration Advisory Committee) report last year. The MAC's full report on the current and likely future patterns of migration from the EEA to the UK and the likely economic and social impact of the UK's exit from the EU is due to be released in September 2018. In the meantime it has published an interim report based on the 417 responses it received. The report acknowledges that EU workers are employed because they are the best and are available. Therefore, there is a concern about the prospect of restrictions on the ability to recruit EEA migrants and that EEA migrants may be subject to the Tier 2 points based system application process. Those currently using the Tier 2 process to recruit non-EEA migrants complain that the system is time consuming, costly and overly complex. There is also a fear that low-skilled migrants will not meet the criteria to apply under Tier 2.

Unfortunately the report does not give any suggestions for tackling the issues employers face. Further, it does not give any indication of what a future immigration regime will look like post Brexit. Any new regime is likely to be implemented in 2021. To assist our clients in navigating the complexities of Brexit, we have published a comprehensive guide: "Immigration and Brexit: Guide for UK-based EU nationals". The guide includes information on how EU nationals will be affected by Brexit and what can be done now in preparation. If you would like to discuss how Dentons can help you prepare for Brexit, and receive a copy of the guide, please do get in touch.

Increase in fees

Fees for immigration and nationality applications have been increased with effect from 6 April 2018. For some applications the increase is as much as 4 per cent – which is a moderate increase compared to previous years.

As a reminder to employers, in addition to government visa application fees, the immigration health surcharge applies to most limited leave to remain (temporary residence) applications, and for Tier 2 applications there is also the immigration skills charge. There are also optional priority / premium service fees to expedite processing, and in certain situations fees will also be incurred for English language assessment and tuberculosis testing.

Regarding the immigration health surcharge, this is currently £200 per year per applicant, however at a point to be determined in 2018, this will increase to £400 per year per applicant.

With the escalating costs of applying for UK visas it is important for employers to have a policy which clearly describes the financial support provided to employees, and any measures to recover costs where employment ends prematurely. Please get in touch if you would like to discuss this further.

Croatian nationals

EU member states were able to restrict Croatian citizens' access to labour markets when the country joined the EU in 2013. The UK chose to apply this measure. This meant that Croatians needed permission from the Home Office to work in the UK.

The restriction will be lifted from 30 June 2018 meaning that Croatian workers' rights will be in line with other EU citizens working in the UK. This decision was made on the basis that unemployment was at near record lows and the eurozone and Croatia are forecast to grow strongly over the next two years. Further, there are estimated to be fewer than 10,000 Croatians in the UK. When the same controls were lifted from Romanians and Bulgarians there were around 57,000 Romanians and 35,000 Bulgarians living in the UK.

Whilst this will be welcome news for Croatians and their employers, they will of course remain concerned about the impact of Brexit on their right to continue working in the UK.