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What Does Brexit Mean For The Healthcare Sector?

Tijen Ahmet, Legal Director and Business Immigration Specialist at law firm

Shakespeare Martineau, discusses the uncertainty that the healthcare sector is currently facing as the UK begins the process of leaving the European Union.

Uncertainty is a feeling being experienced in many sectors across the UK right now as the country begins to face up to the prospect of Brexit. Of the many challenges paving the road to a full withdrawal from the European Union (EU), the shiſting immigration landscape will be causing many businesses and organisations to step back and take stock of their strategy for sourcing skilled talent and recruitment going forward.

The healthcare sector is heavily reliant on an inward flow of skilled workers, ranging from nurses and midwives to general practitioners and surgeons, many of whom migrate from the EU. Currently, there are approximately 50,000 Europeans living in the UK and working for the NHS. This key demographic provides much-needed skills and expertise required to fill the already sizeable skills gap, which can largely be attributed to a lack of investment in funding and training in recent years. As a result, the concern within the industry is that this skills gap will only become wider if Europeans are not able to secure their rights as residents in the UK.

In November 2015, nurses were listed on the Government’s ‘Shortage Occupation List’, which is regularly reviewed by the Migration Advisory Committee. The fact that nurses were added to this list for sponsorship of skilled non-UK and European nationals coming to the UK is a clear indication that there aren’t enough residents in the UK to fill those vacancies within the NHS.

Brexit has put a spanner in the works and EU citizens currently living and working in the UK now face having to secure their status going forward. EU nationals who haven’t been here

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since before Article 50 was triggered in March this year will not be guaranteed settlement status in the future and may therefore be subject to the same requirements and checks normally required from non-EU applicants.

Unfortunately, the steps that need to be taken by those wishing to secure their permanent rights to residency and work in the UK are still unclear. In a proposal document released by the Government on 26th

As the Prime Minister has set out in the Government’s proposal document to ‘safeguard’ EU migrants living in the UK, it is indicating that the actual process will become easier. Indeed, plans for the future have been designed specifically to provide a ‘streamlined and user- friendly process’.

June 2017, Prime Minister Theresa

May set out her desire to safeguard the rights of EU citizens in the UK, yet the specifics are still ambiguous at best. What we do know is that the new process involves moving EU nationals from the cover of EU to UK law.

The current government proposals state that people who have been living here continuously for five years or more can apply to receive settled status, allowing them access to public funds and further opportunities to apply for British citizenship. People who arrived before the ‘cut-off’ date and haven’t been in the UK for five years will be able to wait the required amount of time and apply for settled status later on. For those who arrived aſter the cut-off, the options are not as clean cut and, whilst they can apply for permission to stay, this is no guarantee of settled status.

As the timescales and specifics of the new legislation are currently not clear, healthcare professionals must act sooner rather than later to secure their status and their future in the UK. Currently, this involves providing five years’ worth of documents to prove that the applicant has been living and working in the UK for this timeframe. Documents suitable for this include P60 forms, bank statements, wage slips and utility bills.

the UK right now as the country begins to face up to the

experienced across

“Uncertainty is a feeling being

prospect of Brexit.”

On average, applications for permanent residency can take up to six months to process; a long time, especially considering the administrative burden that finding relevant evidence can bring with it. If time is of the essence and workers are looking to secure their right to stay and work in the UK for the future, it is vital that the documents are submitted correctly first time. If there are errors or missing pieces of evidence, applications can be rejected, leaving individuals to start over. Having to redo an application can mean that gaining residency can take up to a year, delaying those who intend to proceed to an application for British citizenship before the UK’s exit from the EU.

Whilst many skilled EU healthcare workers must take active steps themselves to put the necessary wheels

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