As you will no doubt have seen in the news, progress has been made in phase one of the Brexit negotiations. We have prepared a summary of the position on citizens’ rights; whilst it has been stressed that “nothing is agreed until everything is agreed”, the lie of the land is starting to look a little clearer for those EEA nationals who are already in the UK.

So, in less than a year, EEA nationals will be able to apply for the new settled status if they have completed five years’ qualifying residence in the UK. As an employer, you may soon face questions from your employees about what support you can offer them in applying for the new settled status or in finding out answers to questions that employees are likely to have, particularly if they will not be eligible to apply for the new settled status straight away.

It therefore makes sense to start reviewing your policy on assisting employee with immigration applications or developing one if one does not already exist. If you would support an employee, or new start, based in (say) the US with a visa application to relocate to the UK, an EEA national might reasonably expect support with their application for settled status, or a prior application for permanent residence. Differentiating between the nationalities of employees eligible for immigration support could give rise to discrimination claims.

As we have flagged in our summary, the post-Brexit immigration system is still to be designed. The Migration Advisory Committee is due to publish its report in response to the recent consultation in September 2018. Employers will be hoping that an earlier indication will be given of the likely position of EEA nationals as phase 2 of the Brexit negotiations progress. In the meantime, we advise that you continue to plan for any labour and skills gaps you are likely to experience after the withdrawal date (29 March 2019), should you not be able to easily employ EEA nationals.