EU immigration: rights of EU citizens to live and work in the UK to be severely restricted in the event of a no deal Brexit

12 Dec 2018

The government has published details of how it intends to deal with EU citizens’ rights in the event of ‘no deal’ Brexit.

If the UK leaves the EU with the current withdrawal agreement in place, then EU citizens will have the opportunity to apply for settled (5 years or more UK residence) or pre-settled (less than 5 years’ residence) status under the EU settlement scheme. Any EU citizen moving to the UK by 31 December 2020 would be able to apply by 30 June 2021.

However, in the event of a no deal scenario EU citizen’s rights are not guaranteed in the same way.

The government has now confirmed that if there is no deal:

  • only those EU citizens resident in the UK by 29 March 2019 would be able to apply for settled or pre-settled status, effectively bringing forward the “cut off” date by around 21 months compared to the Withdrawal Agreement;
  • they would have to apply for such status by 31 December 2020 at the latest, if they are to remain in the UK under the preferential arrangement thereafter;
  • relevant family members intending to join the person with settled or pre-settled status in the UK, would have to do so by 29 March 2022 (there is no fixed end date under the withdrawal agreement for family members to join those with settled or pre-settled status).

No proposals for any interim arrangements for EU nationals have currently been put forward.  A "new immigration system" is promised from 1 January 2021, which suggests there will be a gap of many months between the earlier “no deal” cut off date for EU citizens under no deal, and a new immigration system that might facilitate the ability of EU citizens to live and work in the UK post Brexit.

In the meantime, it remains unclear if any changes will be made to the current points based system to allow for recruitment into lower skilled roles, save that the government has announced that it will be commencing its pilot of a new seasonal workers scheme, which is further explained in our recent blog "Spring cleaning?: Home Office provides taster of significant changes planned for the UK immigration system". This leaves many UK employers concerned as to how they will fill comes vacancies in the near future.

Look out for regular updates on developments in business immigration and further information about our business immigration and Brexit seminar in 2019.

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