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Read our update on the latest developments regarding the rights of EU nationals in the UK and next steps for businesses seeking to reassure European staff

Uncertainty is impacting business now

Sixteen months on from the referendum result EU nationals have yet to receive certainty about their future rights in the UK. The new process which EU citizens will have to go through to prove their residency in the UK has also yet to be made clear. Many members are reporting the negative impact this is already having on their ability to retain EU staff and an urgent desire to be able to reassure their European staff.

Welcome words need to be backed by action

Ahead of the European Council on 19-20th October, the Prime Minister wrote an open letter to EU citizens in the UK. In this the Government officially stated for the first time that ‘EU citizens living lawfully in the UK today will be able to stay’. Whilst a welcome statement, negotiations with the EU on citizens’ rights have yet to be concluded. There are outstanding divergences between the UK and EU on rights of future family members after exit, loss of permanent residence after two years of continuous absence, and whether the rights of UK nationals in Europe will be guaranteed only in the individual member state they are in on the day of exit or across all of the EU27 going forward. CBI is continuing to urge both sides to rapidly reach an agreement on citizens’ rights and to implement this independently to the rest of the negotiations.

A new system to obtain ‘settled status’

Ahead of the sixth round of negotiations, on 7th November Government published a technical note outlining further details of the new streamlined, online process for EU nationals to apply for ‘settled status’. This new process will be separate to the current system for obtaining permanent residence and Home Office guidance has been clear EU nationals do not need to apply under the old scheme.  

The technical note confirmed the cost will be no more than applying for a UK passport (£72) and EU nationals will not have to provide evidence of Comprehensive Sickness Insurance, as they currently have to. It also established that EU nationals will not have to account for every trip taken outside of the UK and that Government is looking to utilise existing data, such as employment records held by HMRC, in order to verify residence. EU nationals will not be required to provide fingerprints, only a photograph, and Home Office caseworkers will have the flexibility to ask applicants to supply any evidence that is missing or rectify mistakes in their paperwork, rather than having to reject the whole application and start from scratch. 

There will be an even simpler system for EU nationals who have already obtained Permanent Residence under the old scheme. The technical note expanded on the June policy paper on citizens’ rights and confirmed a two year grace period of blanket permission after the day we leave the EU. This will give EU nationals time to gather any necessary evidence and apply for settled status under the new process. 

What next?

CBI is working with Home Office to ensure this new process is as light touch as possible and will not require EU nationals to provide paperwork or evidence they don’t already have or can easily acquire. However, we are aware HR teams are receiving questions now and businesses want to be able to help guide their staff through whatever process will be required. CBI is urging Government to develop this new system for obtaining settled status as quickly as possible. Once the final process is confirmed and new system established, the CBI will issue guidance to members to help them assist their staff through this new process.

For more information on EU citizens’ rights please contact Tom Barrett