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Prime Minister Theresa May formally outlined her proposals in a whitepaper on 26th June to allow EU citizens to remain in the UK once the country leaves the EU.

The proposals create a new ‘settled status’ for EU citizens who have been living legally and continuously in the UK for 5 years by a cut-off date, which has yet to be specified.  Despite being immediately eligible to remain, there will still need to be an application process to obtain this status. Those already living in the UK at the cut-off date but for less than 5 years, will be allowed to stay until they reach the 5 year milestone. Those arriving in the UK after the unspecified cut-off date will be given a two year “grace period” to obtain a work permit or return to their home countries.

It is expected that the application process to obtain ‘settled status’ will be launched in the Summer of 2018.

Employers should not assume that all EU citizens living and working in the UK will take steps on their own accord to apply for ‘settled status’.  This could result in EU citizens losing their right to remain and work in the UK following Brexit and some highly-skilled EU workers may choose to leave the UK altogether.  Employers should therefore consider offering support and guidance to their affected employees to help ensure minimal negative impact to their business.

As EU citizens currently have freedom of movement and there are no restrictions on right to work in the UK, employers will also need to be prepared for further uncertainty and potentially additional costs when a new work-permit scheme is introduced under new immigration rules which are yet to be finalised.

Further updates will be provided when more information is known.  If you have any queries about eligibility to work in the UK, please contact the HR Consultancy team for guidance.