Under the proposed Withdrawal Agreement, EU citizens and their family members who are resident in the UK by 31 December 2020 will need to apply under the EU Settlement Scheme for immigration permission to continue to live here after Brexit.
The government is in the process of piloting the EU Settlement Scheme and, prior to Christmas, the pilot was open to a select group of EU nationals including those working in the higher education, health and social care sectors. From 21 January 2019, the pilot is being expanded to a much larger group of EU citizens to enable them to apply for "settled" or "pre-settled" status under the EU Settlement Scheme.
In order to apply during this next test phase, applicants will need to either be EU nationals who hold passports which contain biometric chips or non-EU nationals who are the family members of an EU national and have been issued with a biometric residence card by the Home Office. The reason for this restriction is that those applying at this stage must use the "EU Exit: ID Document Check" app, which is used to verify the applicant's identity by reading the biometric data in their passport or biometric residence card. The app is currently only available on tablets and smartphones operating on the Android platform. You can find further information on the app here.
For those who do not hold biometric identity documents or have access to an Android device, the Scheme is due to be open fully by 30 March 2019 when other arrangements will be in place for verifying identity. Under the Withdrawal Agreement, the Scheme is scheduled to remain open until 30 June 2021.
For pharma businesses, particularly those who employ larger numbers of EU nationals, the widening of the pilot provides an opportunity to take a more proactive approach in supporting their employees. For many EU nationals working in the UK, there has been a long period of uncertainty while they wait to find out what their status will be after Brexit, leading to reports that many EU nationals are considering leaving the UK as a result. While employers should be careful not to provide immigration advice to their employees (doing so may be a criminal offence), providing additional support to EU employees with applications under the EU Settlement Scheme may help reassure them in these uncertain times.
Additional information about the EU Settlement Scheme for employers and employees who are EU citizens is available in the form of the Employer Toolkit produced by the Home Office. The Toolkit contains guidance for employers, as well as information leaflets aimed at EU nationals who will be applying under the Scheme.