What next for UK businesses employing EU citizens?

2016-08-10 chris posted:

With more than 3 million EU migrants currently living in the UK, British employers are wondering what right they will have to remain living and working in the UK post-Brexit.

The government has indicated it ‘expects’ to protect the long-term status of EU migrants living in the UK, but what administrative process is this likely to entail for businesses?

If existing rules for registering EU citizens as permanent residents are used as the model for a post-Brexit registration process, a significant minority of EU citizens are likely to find themselves ineligible despite having lived in the UK for several years.

The scale of the administrative exercise that would be required to register all EU citizens already living in the UK for permanent residence is therefore considerable. According to research at Oxford University, if all EEA citizens were to apply for permanent residency in the same year, this would be equivalent to approximately 140 years’ worth of applications.

Consultants and those who are self-employed who have not kept sufficient evidence of their economic activity over the relevant period are also likely to face difficulties, as well as low earners, and people who were unemployed or absent from the UK for more than six months at a time.

So far, the government has made broad statements supporting the principle of protecting the rights of EU citizens already living here. However, the details have not yet been resolved and could be quite complex, including questions such as who will qualify as ‘already living in the UK’, what conditions they will have to meet, and what the application process will involve.

Because many EU citizens have been in the UK for many years, a large share are already potentially eligible for permanent residence, assuming they can demonstrate they were continuously exercising their treaty rights for a period of at least five years.

For the 975,000 EEA citizens who have not lived in the UK long enough to be eligible for permanent residence by early 2016, these people will continue to accrue years of residence that could qualify them for permanent residence before the UK’s exit process is formalised. If the UK remained in the EU for another two years, for example, those who have currently been in the country for three or four years are likely to meet the residence requirement during this time.

While most cases involving people employed in the UK in stable, full-time jobs have the potential to be relatively straightforward, other EU citizens may find themselves in more complex situations. This includes students, self-sufficient people, low earners and the self-employed. If the current rules for determining that a person has been exercising their treaty rights in the UK were the model for any new post-Brexit application process, there would be groups of people who would not qualify despite having lived in the UK for many years.

We will be keeping an eye on developments so watch this space.

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