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The EU Settlement Scheme (EUSS) – What UK Businesses and Empoyers Need to Know
On 30 March 2019, the EUSS was fully implemented under UK domestic immigration rules, as a post-Brexit system. This allows EEA and Swiss citizens, and their family members, to continue to live and work in the UK – EEA is short for the European Economic Area comprising the EU, Iceland, Liechtenstein, and Norway.
Although the UK is no longer a member of the EU, a transition period is currently in place until at least 31 December 2020. During this period, most EU laws including EU free movement rules, continue to apply in the UK and operate in tandem with the EUSS.
After the transition period ends, and when EU free movement rules no longer apply in the UK, EEA and Swiss citizens will likely be subject to the same immigration rules from January 2021 as those which apply to individuals from the “rest of the world”. This could mean being sponsored to work in the UK.
Immigration status under the EUSS
Successful EUSS applicants will have their immigration status in the UK protected, by being granted Pre-settled or Settled status and they will be able to live and work in the UK without sponsorship.
Pre-settled status is essentially a 5-year visa meaning that the holder can usually apply for indefinite leave to remain (ILR) once they are eligible.
Settled status is ILR which is very similar to permanent residence. Individuals may be eligible to apply to become British citizens.
Are there any deadlines?
Unless the relevant authorities change the dates, to be considered for status under the EUSS:
- EEA/ Swiss citizens must be resident in the UK by 11pm on 31 December 2020; and
- Must submit make an application for status under the EUSS by 30 June 2021.
If the first deadline is missed, then “new” EEA/ Swiss citizens arriving in the UK will not be able to apply for status under the EUSS and will likely be subject to the same rules which apply to the “rest of the world”.
If the first deadline is met, but the second is missed, then those individuals may be in the UK unlawfully and without a right to work.
What should businesses do?
UK employers should be careful not to panic. However, UK businesses may wish to begin planning ahead.
For instance, UK employers may wish to encourage current EEA/ Swiss staff (and family members) to consider submitting a free online application under the EUSS before the above deadlines.
Businesses may also wish to revisit any recruitment policies, noting that it will still be possible to hire new EEA/ Swiss citizens under the current EU free movement rules before the end of this year, and not be constrained under the new system as long as the EEA/ Swiss citizen has a form of status under the EU Settlement Scheme. This will be especially helpful for businesses in the short-term who are reliant on what the government call “lower-skilled workers”.
In addition, UK businesses will need to consider whether they need to apply for a sponsor licence to be able to continue hiring new EEA/ Swiss citizens once EU free movement rules end. If a sponsor licence is likely to be required, applying for one sooner rather than later can potentially mean avoiding a sudden surge of sponsor licence applications towards the end of this year, and should mean that UK employers will be ready and in a position to sponsor new EU citizens for suitably skilled jobs from “Day 1” of the new system being in force. There is a cost factor to consider for applying for and maintaining a sponsor licence, so early budgeting can help, as well as ensuring that internal work place systems are compliant with onerous sponsor obligations.
Dixcart Legal can assist with all matters of business and personal immigration. If you have any questions about this article/require any immigration assistance, please feel free to contact Vincent Chung: firstname.lastname@example.org.
This Information Note was first published in August 2019 and updated in March 2020.