The outcome of the EU referendum and the UK’s decision to leave the EU has left many EU nationals who live in work in the UK – and their employers – uncertain about what this means for them.  In this article we look at what Brexit means for EU citizens living and working in Britain.

EU nationals are part of our communities across the UK – according to recent statistics, there are roughly 2.9 million EU nationals currently living in the UK, equating to 6.6% of the workforce.

The current position

At present, EU citizens do not need to apply for a visa to live and work in the UK. There will be no immediate changes to the free movement of EU nationals living in this country, until the UK ceases its EU membership. At least for the time being, EU nationals can continue working in the UK just as they were before the referendum, and employers can rest assured that they are not breaching their obligations under the ‘right to work’ provisions by continuing to employ EU nationals.

What will happen after Brexit?

The situation long term is less clear. Our new Prime Minister Teresa May has stated that ‘Brexit means Brexit’ and there will be no second referendum on this issue. The UK Government will need to trigger Article 50 in the coming months, which will initiate the UK’s official withdrawal from the EU. In turn, this will trigger formal negotiations between the UK and the remaining 27 EU Member States, regarding their future trade arrangements. This process is likely to take in the region of two years.

In the Secretary of State’s Brexit Briefing Paper, it was stated that this “would begin a period of uncertainty, of unknown length, and an unpredictable outcome.” It is only after this period of negotiation that more information will be provided on what will happen to the rights of EU citizens already living in the UK.

What should EU citizens do now?

In the meantime, is there anything that EU citizens can do to secure their status in the UK?

EU citizens who have lived in the UK for five years or more – working, job seeking, studying running their own business or being self sufficient – are able to apply to the Home Office for a Permanent Residence Card. The current fee for this application is £65 per applicant. Under certain circumstances, their non EU national family members may also obtain permanent residence in the UK, provided that certain requirements are met.

In November 2015, the Government made it a prerequisite for EU nationals wishing to apply for British Citizenship, to have a Permanent Residence Card in the UK. You will need to show that you have held permanent residence for at least 12 months and that you have been in the UK for a minimum of six years. You will also need to be of ‘good character’ and have passed the English/Life in th

e UK tests if you are under the age of 65.

If you think that you may be entitled to Permanent Residence in the UK or would like to apply for British Citizenship and would like to discuss your options further, please feel free to contact our specialist immigration team at Stephens Scown on 01392 210700 or at