Brexit: Changing Status

Brexit. There’s no escaping it at the moment; as time ticks ever closer to what may (or may not) be the UK’s departure date from the EU, it is still uncertain the exact impact this will have on everyone’s lives.

However, as a performer and member of AAUK, which by definition means you are a foreign national, it is vital to be informed as to how your working life may be affected, depending on the passports or visas you hold. Here is a quick general run-down on what to expect, assuming you also hold a US or Canadian passport.

EU NATIONAL WITHOUT UK CITIZENSHIP

Many AAUK members have lived and worked freely in the UK as citizens of EU member states, whether as German-Americans or Italian-Canadians or whatever exotic combination of parentage you may have. However, if you do not have UK citizenship, you will be obliged to apply for Settled Status (or pre-Settled Status if you have been here less than five years.) Even if you already have Permanent Residency, this will cease to exist after Brexit and will have to be exchanged for Settled Status, or you risk losing your right to work.

Settled Status is still currently in its testing phase, available only to those with a biometric passport. The full scheme will be rolled out at the very end of March 2019, after which time every EU national must apply if they haven’t done so already. Note that if you apply during the testing phase you will need to pay £65, but this will be refunded. If you use one of the 13 scanning centers instead of the Android app—which is a) ONLY available on Android and b) ONLY with a phone purchased within the last 18 months—it may take several weeks to get an appointment, and you will be charged a further £14 which is not refundable. Also, the centers only scan your passport, nothing else; you will then need to fill out the application online at home. You can also mail your passport into the Home Office for checking, but this should be done as a last resort, given their track record with losing documents.

While decisions tend to come through quite quickly, Settled Status does throw up some other issues. To begin with, you will lose some of the rights covered by Permanent Residency. Secondly, the lack of a hard copy document is a serious obstacle, as viewing the digital document is a complex, multi-step process that requires your passport number, the employer’s email, time, and a solid internet connection – something that might be a headache if you are working for lots of different employers.

On the upside, Settled Status does mean you can carry on working, studying, and living in the UK as you did before, with no restrictions on work or on accessing healthcare. Plus, of course, you can continue to work throughout the EU unrestricted using your EU passport, something that could turn out to be pretty valuable – and a good thing to let agents and casters know about.

UK NATIONALS WITHOUT EU CITIZENSHIP

If, on the other hand, you hold UK citizenship alongside your US or Canadian one, you will not have to apply for Settled Status, and can continue your life in the UK as before. However, with Brexit cutting off the UK from Freedom of Movement, you could suddenly face more barriers in your working life. Although to date nothing firm has been decided, it is looking fairly likely that UK nationals without EU passports will no longer be able to work in the EU without a visa, especially with ETIAS, the EU’s version of ESTA, coming in by 2021. For UK nationals, popping to the continent for a couple days’ shoot on a commercial or a few weeks on a feature at short notice may well end up being a thing of the past.

US/CANADIAN NATIONALS WITH ILR

Many AAUK members have lived in the UK for years with Indefinite Leave to Remain, or ILR. If you have ILR, you do not need to change to Settled Status, because that is effectively what Settled Status is. However, along with UK nationals, your right to work in the EU is also in jeopardy. Before now, holding ILR meant you could work for a limited time per year in the EU; this will most likely cease when those rights cease for UK nationals.

On a side note, a few members have reported some film companies are beginning to demand Biometric Residence Permits (BRP) as proof of right to work for those on ILR. Most people who have received their visas recently will have been sent one automatically, but those who got their ILR or visas before BRPs came in may want to look into getting one.

*********

Please note that the above is for general guidance only. Everyone’s situation is different, and you would be well advised to speak to an immigration professional for your specific circumstances. However, unless you hold both EU and UK passports—and if you do, lucky, lucky you!—your circumstances are about to change, so make sure you are aware of whether you will need to take action. Hopefully, the situation will not turn out to be as worrying as it now appears, and that over time, a system will be worked out for those short-term European jobs we, and other freelancers, build our careers on. In the meantime, though, make sure that your paperwork is in order so that you don’t find yourself unnecessarily caught out.