EU Citizens Right to Work in UK

Although the freedom of movement for EU citizens into the UK technically ended on 31st October 2019, there is currently in place a temporary transition period until a new immigration system is developed in January of 2021. So, what does this mean for employers, landlords, and EU citizens who might be subject to immigration status checks?
Right to Work Checks
The United Kingdom’s Immigration, Asylum, and Nationality Act of 2006 states that if an employer hires someone whose immigration status does not allow them to work in the UK, the employer will be heavily fined. However, if the employers have conducted some prescribed checks, known as “right to work checks”, they may not be fined. Employers are, by law, expected to conduct these checks on all employees. However, conducting these checks selectively on some employees and not on others, could lead to unlawful discrimination.

The EU law on the free movement of persons allows any EU citizen to live and work within the UK even if they do not have a visa. All they have to do is present a passport or national identity card in order to meet the right to work checks. Since 2019, EU citizens with pre-settled or settled status have been allowed to use the new online checking service as well.

Theresa May’s Government Plan
In the case of a no-deal scenario, the free movement would end on and after 31st October 2020. However, EU citizens newly coming to the UK would be allowed a “temporary transition period” until the new immigration system was formed and implemented in January 2021.

Under these new rules, EU citizens would be allowed to enter the UK for up to three months without requiring a visa. If a citizen wanted to stay in the UK for longer, they would have to apply for European Temporary Leave to Remain (ETLR) and would then be allowed to work. Those EU citizens who were UK residents beforehand would be allowed to apply for settled status until December 2020.

It was acknowledged by the May Government that it would be impossible for employers to distinguish between new EU citizens and those who had been in the UK prior to exit day and therefore had to apply for the Settlement Scheme. Hence, in April, guidance rules were published stating that the right to work would change for EU citizens in December 2020, not before. This means that EU citizens would have to show their passport or national identity card regardless of the status of their right to work.

What did the Johnson Government say?
The current Prime Minister, Boris Johnson, has stated that those EU citizens who were living in the UK before 31st October 2020 would be allowed to apply to the Settlement Scheme until the end of December 2020. However, this will no longer be part of the government’s plan for ETLR. Even though EU citizens will be allowed to come to the UK for trips and holidays, the landscape will change for those coming to work or study. Changes to a new immigration system are still underway and in the process of being developed.

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