We look here at what this might mean for your EU national employees, and answer a few common questions on the new proposals.
The proposal is that qualifying EU citizens (those EU citizens who have been resident in the UK for a continuous period of five years) will be able to apply for 'settled status' (indefinite leave to remain) as long as they are still resident in the UK. If an EU citizen has been resident in the UK for a continuous period of five years before the 'specified date' they will be eligible to apply for permission for settled status.
How the new proposals will affect EU nationals will depend on the date the Government decides is the 'specified date'. The 'specified date' has yet to be decided, but has been stated as being no earlier than 29 March 2017.
Assurance is given to Irish citizens that the Common Travel Area arrangements between the UK and Ireland are to be protected.
If an EU citizen wants to apply to become a British citizen they have to show they have permanent residence in the UK by having a document certifying their permanent residence. Also the Government have stated they will make the process for settled status as streamlined as possible for EU citizens who already hold a document certifying they have permanent residence.
The Government states they will be allowed to stay in the UK until they reach the five year point but they will need to apply to the Home Office for a temporary residence document to remain in the UK once the UK have left the EU. This will be done during a period of 'blanket permission' which will be a generic umbrella of temporary leave to give EU citizens a grace period between the moment that free movement ends and the time they can obtain their residence document. This period is likely to be up to two years, to start immediately upon the UK's exit from the EU. Once they have been in the UK for five years continuously they will then be able to apply for settled status.
If they arrive prior to the UK's withdrawal from the EU, those EU citizens and their family members who arrive in between the specified date and the date the UK leaves the EU will continue to exercise free movement rights up until the UK leaves the EU. From then the grace period will apply to them so they will have a period of time, believed to be up to two years in which to apply to the Home Office for permission to stay in accordance with the new rules applying to EU citizens which the Government states are yet to be determined. If the specified date is set at the date of the UK's withdrawal from the EU, these new post-exit arrangements would automatically apply to EU citizens and their family members who arrive after that date.
For EU citizens who want to come to the UK to live after the UK have left the EU and after the grace period they will have to comply with future immigration controls in place at the time which have yet to be decided.
If your organisation employs an EU citizen at present there will be no change to the rights and status of EU citizens living in the UK. It is only after the UK leaves the EU that EU citizens will need to apply for documentation to prove they have permission to work legally in the UK. The Government state they will be given plenty of time for them to do so and they will engage closely with all sectors on how they will be affected by those changes.
The above is the UK's Government proposals, which will form the basis of their position when negotiating this issue with the EU. There is therefore no certainty at this stage that these proposals will be accepted.