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Brexit: what next for EU citizens working in the UK?

Following the Brexit vote and as Head of Employment Law at MBM, one of the main questions that I have been asked by entrepreneurs and business owners has been around the issue of EU citizenship and working in the UK. The question is whether EU citizen employees working in the UK should be encouraged to get a UK passport. 

Once the UK leaves the EU, EU citizens will no longer have the automatic right to reside and work in the UK unless they have already obtained permanent residency. The ‘Leave’ campaign have however indicated they are keen to preserve the rights of EU citizens already living and working in the UK. Negotiations will take place over the next couple of years and therefore it will be some time before the final outcome is known. Whilst there is no immediate impact, there remains an element of uncertainty with regard to the long term situation. Any anxious EU citizens working in the UK, in the meantime, could consider applying for British citizenship, if eligible, to protect their position.

If you’re an employer with a number of EU citizens in your employment or the few EU citizen employees you have are particularly key to your business, you may wish to encourage them to apply for British Citizenship. You could consider offering the following support:

  • Disseminating information about how to apply for British Citizenship and the benefits of doing so;
  • Offering practical assistance with filling out the necessary forms etc;
  • Provide an English language and culture teacher to those employees who struggle with the language etc.
  • Engage an immigration specialist third party to assist your staff.

How to become a British Citizen:

The most common way to become a British citizen is called ‘naturalisation’.   EEA nationals who are already in possession of a Permanent Residence document should consider applying for British citizenship if they have resided in the UK for a full year since acquiring permanent residence. You can apply for British citizenship by naturalisation if:

And you must usually have:

  • lived in the UK for at least the 5 years before the date of your application;
  • spent no more than 450 days outside the UK during those 5 years;
  • spent no more than 90 days outside the UK in the last 12 months;
  • had settlement rights (‘indefinite leave to remain’) in the UK for the last 12 months if you’re from outside the European Economic Area (EEA); or
  • had permanent residence status for the last 12 months if you’re a citizen of an EEA country - you need to provide a permanent residence document; and
  • not broken any immigration laws while in the UK.

If your spouse or civil partner is a British Citizen, you can apply for citizenship if:

Unless your spouse or civil partner works abroad either for the UK government or for an organisation closely linked to government, you must usually also have:

  • lived in the UK for at least the 3 years before your application is received;
  • spent no more than 270 days outside the UK in those 3 years;
  • spent no more than 90 days outside the UK in the last 12 months; and
  • not broken any immigration laws while in the UK.

Further information on applying for British Citizenship can be found at https://www.gov.uk/becoming-a-british-citizen/check-if-you-can-apply.

If you would like to discuss this topic please contact:

Hannah Roche
Partner and Head of Employment
hannah.roche@mbmcommercial.co.uk
0131 226 8216

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