EU citizens and the right to work – Permanent residence or settled status

The latest news on Brexit is that the UK government will, among other things, offer a ‘mobility framework’ for EU citizens - allowing both UK and EU citizens to continue to travel across the EU to work and study, although full free movement as immigration lawyers currently know it will end. As experienced EEA immigration solicitors we’re keen to make sure EU and EEA nationals in the UK understand their rights. In this context we look at the right to work in the UK as it applies to EU citizens, permanent residence and settled status. 

EU citizens and right to work checks

All employers in the UK have to carry out right to work checks on all new employees. The process involves the employer having sight of original documentation that confirms an individual can work in the UK. This could be a UK passport, a biometric residence permit or residence card, EU or EEA passport or national identity card. EU citizens (and EEA nationals from non-EU states and Swiss nationals) can also use their Registration certificate or permanent residence to demonstrate their right to work in the UK. It’s true – as any of the best immigration lawyers in London will advise - EU citizens do not need to obtain permanent residence as evidence of their right to work in the UK. The right to work in the UK derives from the EU Treaties, and permanent residence is simply evidence of this. 

However, our London immigration lawyers have seen first-hand that many EU citizens find that obtaining the permanent residence makes demonstrating their EU rights significantly easier in practice. This doesn’t just apply to proving the right to work to a new employer; it also helps with accessing a range of other services including housing and benefits, and healthcare. In the future, following Brexit and the end of the transitional period after the UK leaves the those currently living and working in the UK will be able to demonstrate their right to do so through settled status.

Obtaining permanent residence

Under the current regime, and EU citizen can obtain their permanent residence once they have been in the UK for 5 years. It is a relatively inexpensive process – costing £65.00 – and requires the EU citizen to demonstrate through documentation that he or she has already been in the UK for 5 years. This can be done through a variety of documents including council tax bills, utility bills, tax records etc. Once permanent residence is established, it is also possible to apply for British citizenship provided other eligibility requirements are satisfied. Crucially for the right to work checks, permanent residence is listed in Government Guidance as an acceptable form of documentation for a UK employer checking he status of a new employee.

The move to settled status

immigration solicitors have been following the Brexit negotiations closely to understand what it will mean for EU citizens. As the UK moves closer to Brexit, more details have become available about the Settled Status scheme that has been put in place to protect EU citizens already living and working in the UK, and those that will come before the end of the transitional period, with the intention of remaining beyond that time. Settled Status will replace permanent residence at the end of the transitional period, but that shouldn’t dissuade EU citizens who are eligible to obtain permanent residence from applying for it – the Settled Status scheme has not yet been approved by Parliament. In addition, those EU citizens who already have their permanent residence will simply be able to swap it for Settled Status at no extra cost. It is therefore still advisable to apply for permanent residence.

Settled status will be available to EU citizens and their family members who have been living continuously in the UK for 5 years. If an EU citizen does not have the requisite 5 years’ residence by the time the transitional period comes to an end in December 2020, he or she will be allowed to continue to live in the UK to obtain that 5 years’ residence and then apply for settled status. Legal 500 recommended immigration solicitors OTS Solicitors understand from the information we have seen that the application process will be very straightforward – via smartphone app in many cases – and that settled status will only be refused where the individual who is otherwise eligible has serious criminal convictions against him or her.

EU citizens coming to the UK after Brexit

With settled status, EU citizens who are already in the UK before Brexit will be protected and will be able to demonstrate their right to work here to any employer. However, the settled status scheme will close for applications on 30 June 2021. This means that EU citizens who have not already established their right to be in the UK will be subject to whatever new Immigration or visa channel that is put in place. Reports back in September 2017 referred to a leaked document suggestion the UK government intended to take a tougher stance on the migration of EU citizens to the UK post-Brexit; however, the latest reports suggest that while full free movement may no longer be available, the ‘mobility framework’ may well give EU citizens easier access to documentation evidencing a right to work in the UK than non-EEA citizens.

OTS Solicitors are highly experienced immigration lawyers, and regularly help EU citizens and EEA nationals who wish to obtain their permanent residence in the UK. If you are concerned about your Immigration status in the UK and would like advice or support to regularise your position before Brexit takes effect, please get in touch. To book an appointment call 0203 959 9123. 



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