How Brexit Will Affect EU Healthcare Professionals

Government policy detailing immigration rights for EU citizens and their families following the UK's exit from the EU.
Government policy detailing immigration rights for EU citizens and their families following the UK's exit from the EU.

With March 2019 feeling like it is just around the corner, many of our candidates are asking what will happen to them once Britain leaves the EU. Here is what we know so far.

According to a report published by the House of Commons - Health Committee in April 2017, there are currently more than 60,000 EU nationals working in the NHS and an additional 90,000 working in adult social care. The same report identifies that Brexit has had a significant and unwelcomed impact on the morale of EU workers and their families. As a result, official figures show that the number of EU nurses registering with the Nursing and Midwifery Council (NMC) to work in the UK has dropped dramatically since Brexit. The Department of Health has suggested that new language requirements for EU nurses may have played a part, however, health experts state that the UK's decision to leave the European Union has been the primary reason. (source: bbc.com).

However, despite these concerns, specialists have stated that resolving the existing rights of all EU nationals in the UK is a priority. Janet Davies, the chief executive and general secretary of the Royal College of Nursing, declared to the BBC that it was vital EU staff were given assurances about their future. “We rely on the contributions of EU staff and this drop in numbers could have severe consequences for patients and their families. Our nursing workforce is in a state of crisis. Across our health service, from A&E to elderly care, this puts patients at serious risk (....) EU staff should be left in no doubt that their contributions are welcome and valued.”

 

Progress in Brexit negotiations

In December 2017, the UK government made an agreement with the EU through which the rights of all EU citizens living in the UK will be protected after Brexit. The joint report confirms that EU citizens will have free movement of right until the UK officially leaves the EU (source: bbc.com). Therefore, anyone who arrives before the cut-off date of 29th March 2019 will have the right to remain in the UK. Furthermore, they will have reunification rights, which means their relatives and spouses or partners who don't live in the UK will be able to join them in the future. According to the official government website, all EU citizens in the UK will have all their rights protected including security, healthcare, education and employment.

 

Settled status vs permanent residency

The agreement states that those who are yet to be granted permanent residency in the UK will have their rights protected, so they can still acquire it after withdrawal. This process will be referred to as "settled status" and according to gov.uk, the procedure will be "the same as or more generous than, those set out in the existing Free Movement Directive”. To acquire this status, you will still need to live in the UK for five years, continuously and lawfully. Also, according to gov.uk, "you will not have to account for every trip that you have taken in and out of the UK".

The application process will be "as streamlined, quick and user-friendly as possible". The cost of the process is still unclear, but the report is stating it will be free of charge or "for a charge not exceeding that imposed on nationals for the issuing of similar documents". Criminal background checks will also be carried out. Those who already have residency rights in the UK will have their document "converted" free of charge, but will be subject to identity, criminality and security checks (source: bbc.com).

The authorities' plan is to elaborate a definitive procedure before the cut-off date, so that EU citizens can apply before then. However, most likely the scheme will remain open for applications for approximately two years after the UK leaves the EU, so there will be adequate time for those who wish to apply. During this period everyone's residency rights will be protected.

 

EU citizens who arrive after Brexit

The agreement stipulates that during a transition phase of up to three years, EU citizens will still be able to move to the UK to live, work and study – However, this will now require registration. Details of the final post-Brexit immigration rules are yet to be finalised, however, it is expected that a work permit system will be introduced along the lines of that of non-EU nationals.