UK immigration laws on EU national workers living in the UK are set to change should Article 50 be triggered by March next year, with talks already underway on new work permit rules and major restrictions on overseas students.
While employers should encourage their EU national workers to act now to get ahead of changes and safeguard their future in Britain, immigration law experts, Migrate UK, say that few EU national workers – and their employers – are aware of the strict criteria and timings required to become a ‘qualified person’ eligible for British Nationality status.
The immigration law firm is publishing a comprehensive roadmap for EU students, workers, self-employed, job-seekers and UK employers concerned about the future skills of their workforce, on how to secure permanent residence (PR) and British Nationality status under current immigration legislation.
Length of stay in the UK
EU passport holders may enter the UK free of immigration restrictions for at least three months but after this time they will need to become a ‘qualified person’ such as in employment, a student, self-employed or self-sufficient to be eligible for residence and British national status.
In most circumstances, your workers must have been in the UK for five consecutive years as a qualified person before applying for PR and if they are absent from the UK for more than 180 days – or six months roughly – per year in those five years, then they won’t qualify. There are allowances to this rule such as students on work placement, or those with serious health issues that require medical care overseas, but the circumstances must be exceptional.
Further, there are restrictions on the right of entry and residence on the grounds of public policy, public security and public health for example, a custodial sentence in the UK does not count towards being a qualified person.
Employees and self employed
Employers and individual workers must keep evidence of employment such as payslips, bank statements and contracts, as this will be critical for your worker’s residence application.
If they are classed as self-employed then they need to keep evidence such as tax and National insurance documents, and proof of earnings.
Furthermore, unlike self-sufficient individuals and students, EU national workers and self-employed individuals do not need to hold Comprehensive Sickness Insurance (CSI) but what many EU national workers and self-employed individuals do not realise is that if they are in-between jobs or out of work, even for a short time, they must register with the Job Centre otherwise they are automatically classed as self-sufficient and will need CSI.
Jonathan Beech, managing director of Migrate UK, adds, ‘We have EU clients that have lived and worked in the UK for more than 10 years many of whom are highly educated and highly skilled from sectors like finance, banking and engineering.
‘They assumed that their length of time in the country meant that they’re automatically considered permanent residents but this isn’t the case. Following the Brexit vote, many EU national workers no longer feel safe about their future status.’
Self-sufficient EU nationals and students
Few self-sufficient EU migrants and foreign students realise that they must hold CSI if they wish to remain in the UK for longer than three months. It’s free from the country of origin and it’s best to get it before entering the UK. CSI applying from the UK would not be valid.
CSI is also fundamental for any permanent residence application where a person has spent time in the UK as a student or self-sufficient person during their five years in the UK. Students must show proof of studying in the UK such as details of any grants, scholarships or bursary and self-sufficient EU nationals need to show evidence of having adequate finances to support themselves as well as CSI.
Those seeking work do not need CSI if they have registered with the Job Centre. They can access the NHS and they can seek permanent residence after five years, so long as they can show evidence of efforts to secure work. The Job Centre will evaluate job searches for all registered job seekers unable to secure work after 90 days in the UK.
Your residence revoked
Unlike British Nationality, permanent residence isn’t always a guaranteed licence to remain in the UK and can easily be revoked, for example, should any of your workers leave the UK for more than two years at any one time and not return.
But, once they’ve shown evidence of being in the UK for 12 months after the five continuous years (unless they are married to a British Citizen and then the PR qualification period is slightly different) they should then be able to qualify for British Nationality status provided they are free from any immigration restrictions.
Cost and length of time
Permanent residence applications are taking longer than normal since the vote to leave the EU, due to rising demand, with the average time taking six months and costing £65 per person. British Nationality applications are £1,236 and can take on average three to four months to process.
Beech continues, ‘Latest official labour force statistics show that there are around two million EU migrants working in Britain and they will be affected by the government’s proposed changes to the UK Immigration Rules.
‘These rules could add another layer of complexity to finding much needed talent for example, under proposed new rules, EU national workers wishing to work in Britain will need a UK sponsor which will be a near impossible task if you’re outside the UK at the time and how many employers will really want to pay to fly possible candidates over to interview?’