Deal or no deal the EU settlement scheme is now fully operational. The government has also set out plans for a new immigration system from January 2021.

EU Settlement scheme

As it currently stands, if the UK leaves the EU with no deal, EU nationals will need to be living in the UK before the exit date and will need to apply under the settlement scheme by 31 December 2020 in order to remain in the UK. If the UK leaves the EU with a deal, EU nationals will need to be living in the UK by 31 December 2020 and apply under the scheme by 30 June 2021. While the date in which we leave the EU may continue to change, at this stage, we do not anticipate the deadline for applying under the EU settlement scheme to change.

A link to apply under the EU Settlement scheme can be found at: https://www.gov.uk/settled-status-eu-citizens-families/applying-for-settled-status

In the meantime, EU passports and ID cards remain valid evidence of right to work in the UK.

New Immigration System

The Government’s recent White Paper outlines the Home Office’s proposal for the new immigration system post Brexit. While the paper is only a proposal and the Home Office will consult on a number of the proposed changes, the introduction of one immigration system for all will be a huge change for many businesses who have been able to rely on free access to the EU market to fill vacancies.

Considering that European nationals will need an appropriate visa to work in the UK from January 2021 the Home Office is proposing to relax some of the current immigration rules.

Of particular interest are the proposed changes to the Tier 2 (‘work permit’) category which include:

  • removing the annual cap
  • removal of the resident labour market test (advertising)
  • lowering the skill level to include RQF level 3-5 roles

For those employers who recruit graduates from UK universities, there is also the proposal to grant:

  • an additional 6 months post studies to all those studying a bachelor or master degree; and
  • an additional 12 months for all those who complete a PhD.

During this additional time, post study, Tier 4 students will be able to work full time.

While it is anticipated that these changes will not be introduced until 2021, when the new system is due to commence, some of the White Paper proposals have already been introduced. Of particular interest to the Life Science sector is the change on 29 March 2019 which now allows Tier 4 students switching into Tier 2 to make the switch up to three months before their expected completion date. Previously bachelor and master students studying at a UK university had to have completed their course before being able to apply to switch. This will give greater flexibility to both students and employers.

For those concerned about such a huge change and how their businesses will need to operate post Brexit, the Government is proposing a transitional visa. This will be a time-limited visa to allow EU national to live and work in the UK for up to 12 months only. The key restrictions will include:

  • no switching in-country
  • no ability to bring dependants
  • a 12 month cooling off period before being able to use this route again
  • the route will not lead to settlement

While this visa may elevate some of the initial concerns, for businesses to attract talent to the UK this is not a long term solution for employees or employers.

Therefore, while most of the proposed changes are still just proposals, businesses need to consider now if these changes will work for them or if other allowances are required to ensure they are ready to feed into consultations once opened.