On 31 January 2020 the UK left the European Union with a Withdrawal Agreement in place. This agreement means that the UK now benefits from a transition period, a period of time lasting (currently) until 31 December 2020 during which there will be little change to the UK’s adherence to EU rules and regulations. The UK government has indicated it will not seek to extend the transition – something it would have to do by June.
The transition period has major repercussions for EU nationals living in the UK, or those would like to relocate here before the end of this year. This article takes a look at the top 5 things to know about free movement and UK living now that the UK has left the EU.
1. EU nationals can still move freely to the UK
Throughout the transition period, it is still permissible for EU nationals to relocate to the UK. There are no special requirements to allow this; an EU national just needs their EU passport to be admitted to the UK. This arrangement remains in place until the end of this year, so even those who move to the UK after Brexit Day can still qualify to remain here long-term.
2. Family members of EU nationals might find things more difficult
The EU Settled Status (EUSS) scheme was introduced to confirm residence rights after Brexit; it replaces regulations which governed the UK’s actions while we remained a member of the EU. The EUSS scheme is in some ways less accommodating for EU family members that the previous regime had been. Under the regulations, family members who could accompany or join their EU sponsor in the UK included partners, children/ grandchildren, dependant parents/grandparents, and also siblings who could show dependency. The changes made by the EUSS scheme are confusing and on the face of it they replicate these rules. However, crucially, the ability for a family member to apply for a family permit (the document that allows entry to the UK from overseas) is restricted only to:
- spouses/civil partners,
- children/grandchildren under 21 (or dependent children/grandchildren of any age), and
- dependent parents/grandparents.
There is no mention of siblings at all in these provisions, effectively freezing that category of people out of the UK from this point forwards. New rules for unmarried partners are tighter than under the old regulations.
3. Applications for status under the EU Settled Scheme are still open
Although the UK has already left the EU, the EUSS scheme remains open and will do so for some time. All EU nationals and their family members need to be documented under the scheme, and the deadline by which they must do so is 30 June 2021. This means that those relocating to the UK later in 2020 will still have time to make their application for status before the deadline expires.
4. The right to work in the UK has not altered
As EU nationals (and family) remain lawfully in the UK, and there is not yet any legal requirement for new documents to be held, right to work has not changed. There is currently no requirement for an employer to ask for EUSS scheme confirmation as proof of right to work; an EU passport or ID card still suffices. Employers will be able to rely on this evidence of right to work even after the transition period ends. Family members have more complicated requirements to prove their right to work and so an early application under the EUSS scheme is likely to be of value to them.
5. Change is on the horizon
Although nothing major has changed as yet, change is coming. Arrivals to the UK from 01 January 2021 will be subject to a new immigration regime, regardless of their nationality. In 2021 there will also be changes to how employers will assess an individual’s right to work, and to the type of residence document that needs to be held.
This year will pass quickly, and it is essential that anyone affected stays up to date with developments to the UK’s immigration policy.