ONS Migration Statistics Quarterly report for the period January 2016 to March 2016 showed that net migration to the UK has not changed significantly, at 327,000. The figure for EU-only net migration is 180,000. These figures are to be expected and it is strong evidence of the growing fear among EU citizens, leading up to the EU referendum, that the UK door could close on them soon – a fear that still remains.
Such concern is being felt by organisations as well as individuals. During the same period as the ONS migration figures – January 2016 to March 2016 – our firm saw a three-fold increase in EU citizens and UK organisations seeking Permanent Residency and British Nationality status for themselves and their staff as the UK headed towards an EU vote.
The Government’s plans to seek curbs on free movement rules is a worrying one for many, as industries like engineering, IT, construction, hospitality, rely heavily on skills from outside the UK. The free movement rules currently give EU nationals the right to live and work in other member states. For particular sectors and skills, the Government will have to seriously consider free movement to some extent, in exchange for diminished access to the EU’s Single Market, or face the prospect of these industries in the UK, declining or relocating.
Even if the Government triggered Article 50 tomorrow and stated an effective “cut-off date” for when EU citizens will be granted a right to stay in the UK, this growing rise in EU citizens entering the UK will continue, along with applications for Permanent Residency and British Nationality as it could take years for any deals and changes to the immigration rules to be refined and implemented.
Nonetheless, with the uncertainty set to continue, we’re advising EU citizens currently living and working in the UK and who are classified as a ‘qualified persons’ (i.e. you’re working, studying, self-employed, self-sufficient or looking for work) to apply for a registration certificate to prove their right to live or to work in the UK. If you’re a ‘qualified person’ having been in the UK for at least five years (or three if you are the spouse of a British citizen), then you can also apply for permanent residency and then, 12 months after, British Nationality. Applications can take up to six months to be decided. With the Home Affairs Committee warning of possible fresh delays and backlogs in the immigration system as more people enter the UK and no date as yet set on changes to the immigration rules, we’re advising organisations with EU workers and citizens themselves, not to delay their applications.
Migrate UK is a law firm specialising solely in immigration law for organisations and individuals. Jonathan Beech has over 20 years’ experience in the immigration sector. Prior to setting up Migrate UK in 2004, he gained extensive experience working and consulting in UK immigration for the UK Border Agency and two of the ‘Big Four’ global advisory firms, Ernst & Young and KPMG.
(Source: Jonathan Beech, Managing Director of Migrate UK)