EU nationals & immigration

26th October 2020

What you need to know

There is quite a lot of unease as to the position of EU nationals in the UK and what will happen when the transition period for allowing EU citizens to enter and remain in the UK ends on 31 December 2020.

Free movement continues to apply until the end of the Brexit transition period at 11pm on 31 December 2020. After this time, EU nationals including the EEA countries and Switzerland will need a visa to live in the UK unless they are eligible under the EU settlement scheme. Irish citizens are, however, exempt and do not require immigration permission under the scheme to continue to live in the UK without restrictions. Their family members, however, will need immigration permission under it.

What is the EU settlement scheme?

The UK government introduced this scheme in order to safeguard the rights of EU citizens after Brexit.

The scheme provides that EU, EEA and Swiss citizens:

  • who have resided in the UK for at least 5 years are eligible for settled status (also known as indefinite leave to remain/settlement). In order to qualify for settled status under this scheme, the applicant must not have any absences more than 180 days in any 12-month period in the 5 years. If the applicant does not qualify for settlement, then the pre-settled status cannot be extended which will result in the applicant needing to apply for a new visa to stay in the UK.
  • who have less than 5 years residence are eligible for pre-settled status (also known as limited leave to remain) which is granted for a period of 5 years. As 5 years’ residence will be completed, they will become eligible for settled status. To qualify or pre-settled status under the EU settlement scheme the applicant must be physically present in the UK before the end of the transition period. Applicants will need their EU passport and proof of presence in the UK e.g. something with the UK address on or a plane ticket. The EU national can then leave the UK. Pre-settled status is lost if the holder is absent from the UK for 2 years or more

The deadline for applications under the EU settlement scheme is 30 June 2021.

If you do employ EU citizens, it is sensible to ensure that your employees apply as soon as possible. The benefit of this is that if the Home Office requests further information then this can be rectified by the employee before the deadline of 30 June 2021. Waiting to apply close to the deadline of 30 June 2021 is risky especially if the application is refused which would mean that the employee would lose their eligibility to work.

What about EU nationals coming to the UK from 1 January 2021?

EU nationals coming to the UK after this date who are not eligible under the EU settlement scheme must have a visa to live in the UK. EU nationals are still able to enter the UK as visitors, visa free for up to 6 months however if they are looking to live in the UK for longer periods, or work and study in the UK, then visas will be required.

The current immigration system applies to non-EU nationals; however, EU nationals will come under this from January 2021 and will need to meet the criteria of the immigration rules in place at that time.

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