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Brexit – new immigration rules ahead

Under current rules citizens of the European Economic Area (EEA) and Switzerland may live and work in the UK without special permission. Brexit of course will bring an end to this arrangement (EEA anyway) but we’re waiting for detail on what system might allow EEA citizens to work here. The answer is likely to relate to the system for non EEA workers.

Non EEA workers can apply to come to the UK under a points based system under a tier system:

  • Tier 1 covers high value migrants, investors and entrepreneurs and exceptionally talented individuals – these can come to the UK without having a sponsor or a job offer in the UK
  • Tiers 2 and 5 are for migrants with an employer sponsor and there are a number of categories of employment specified within these tiers
  • Tier 3 has never been activated but was intended to allow low skilled workers to enter the UK
  • Tier 4 is for students

Brexit is likely to result in a similar system to cover EEA nationals, perhaps with Tier 3 activated to cover the anticipated shortfall of employees in low skilled jobs.

Whilst it is almost certain that there will be a delay in phasing in a new system (during which time we expect EEA nationals will continue to be allowed to come to the UK to work) its eventual imposition will require employers to have and maintain accurate records and evidence of eligibility to work for EEA workers in the same way that they currently do for non EEA workers. A failure to do so (and many employers are not very good at obeying the existing rules for non EEA people) can and does lead to substantial fines – up to £20,000 per worker.

EEA workers already living and working in the UK will be able to apply for settled status which is likely to be automatically granted for those already here before Brexit date, and probably during any transition period.

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