The Financial Services and FinTech industry relies on talent from outside the UK; therefore, uncertainty surrounding the UK leaving the EU remains a concern.

With nearly four times as many overseas migrants working in UK FinTech organizations versus the UK  versus the UK workforce in its entirety, Financial Services and FinTech organisations must assess and identify their reliance on EEA and Swiss talent and the impacts of either a deal or a no–deal scenario and the post-Brexit immigration landscape to remain operationally resilient.

Brexit and your impacted workforces in the UK and EU

The immigration impact of Brexit largely depends on the manner of the UK’s exit from the EU. The dates below are based on current projections and the proposed transition period (although this period could in theory be extended).

What does the ‘flextension’ to 31 January 2020 mean for free movement?

Free movement continues in both directions during the extension period. EEA and Swiss nationals resident in the UK can continue to apply to the EU Settlement Scheme as can new arrivals from the EEA and Switzerland while the extension continues. The cut-off dates for eligibility and applications under this Scheme depend on whether the extension ends with a deal, or no-deal exit.

What if a deal is agreed during this time?

If a deal is agreed, the UK and EU are expected to enter a transition period during which free movement continues as now. EEA and Swiss nationals resident in the UK can continue to apply to the EU Settlement Scheme as can new arrivals from the EEA and Switzerland while the transition continues. In a deal scenario, the projected cut-off dates for eligibility and applications under the Scheme are:

  • Eligibility: Applicants must be resident in the UK by 31 December 2020
  • Applications: Must be made to the EUSS by 30 June 2021

Note that the rules for family members vary and require separate attention.

What if the extension period ends in the UK leaving the EU without a deal?

EEA and Swiss nationals resident in the UK by the exit date can continue to apply to the EU Settlement Scheme until 31 December 2020.

  • Eligibility: Applicants must be resident in the UK by the exit date
  • Applications: Must be made to the EUSS by 31 December 2020

EEA and Swiss nationals not resident by exit date can continue to enter and remain in the UK as they do now, until 31 December 2020. If they wish to remain in the UK beyond that date, they would need to apply for European Temporary Leave to Remain before then. The application is expected to be free of charge and successful applicants will be granted 3 years’ leave to remain in the UK. Extensive regulations around this leave were released by the Government in October.

Until 31 December 2020, employers and other third parties including landlords can continue to accept EU/EEA/Swiss passports and national ID cards as proof of legal residence in the UK (although rules for ID cards may change in 2020).

In the absence of any preferential arrangements:

  • UK nationals travelling to the EU for short business trips should be aware that although they will benefit from visa-free travel to the EU for 90 days out of 180 across the Schengen area, they must restrict their activities to those permitted by the destination country
  • These generally exclude any paid or productive work. Those travelling for productive work, even for a short period, will typically require work authorization. Productive work would generally include covering a colleague, working on reports or accessing/using live systems, executing trades/undertaking trading activity and working remotely (meeting the requirements of your day to day role whilst in a host location)
  • The European Commission has released a calculator to assist in working out days spent across the Schengen area
  • In the majority of EU locations, it is not yet possible to commence a work authorization application for a UK national. Exceptions, where applications can be submitted now, include the Netherlands and Norway

What Financial Services and FinTech organizations can do now

  • Ensure impacted workforces have completed the applicable registration requirements in the UK and EU.
  • Be aware of where short-term UK citizen travellers are going in the EU and what activities they are doing. Communicate the new restrictive frameworks to minimise risk and compliance exposure.
  • Understand the immigration processes and timelines that will kick in post Brexit in both the UK and EU.

Even organizations with the most Brexit–proof models should be alert to how things may impact both existing and planned workforces in the UK and EU. Ongoing implementation and increasing enforcement of posted worker legislation across the EU also brings a whole new dynamic to assessing the risks associated with business travel and short–term mobility.

Beyond Brexit

From 2021, new EU arrivals into the UK are expected to fall under an entirely new immigration landscape, currently referred to as the Future Skills-Based Immigration System. The Migration Advisory Committee is currently reviewing business input on the consultation around that system and will report back to the Government in January 2020.

In the meantime, the October 2019 addition of digital and IT occupations (in high use across the sector) to the shortage occupation list of foreign workers should make the process of sponsoring visas for talent from outside the EU to fill these roles significantly quicker and simpler. The re-introduction of the Post Study Work route as the new ‘Graduate Route’, enabling graduating students to apply for 2 years’ leave to remain in the UK after their studies, is welcome news for students and business alike.

Summary

With nearly four times as many overseas migrants working in UK FinTech organisations versus the UK workforce in its entirety, it’s imperative that FinTech organisations assess and identify their reliance on EU talent and the impacts of either a ‘deal’ or a ‘no–deal’ scenario. The distinction between ‘business activities’, which can be performed as a visitor and ‘work’, which will need a work permit, will become ever more important when mitigating for the loss of freedom of movement and the flexibility this has enabled in the past.