With Brexit getting ever nearer (the date of the UK’s exit from the EU currently remains 29 March 2019) and the prospect of a no deal exit still possible, the Home Office continue to publish clarifications on what this could mean for EU nationals who may wish to come to the UK after it leave the EU.
If there is a no deal Brexit, EU nationals and their family members who are already living in the UK by 29 March 2019 will have until 31 December 2020 to apply to protect their status by way of the EU Settlement Scheme. In a policy paper published on 28 January 2019, the Home Office stated that these EU nationals “are part of our community, and part of our country and we welcome the contribution that they make”.
The UK Government’s plan in a no deal scenario is to end free movement as soon as possible from 30 March 2019, subject to Parliamentary approval. This will be achieved by the Immigration and Social Security Co-ordination (EU Withdrawal) Bill, which the Government introduced to Parliament in December 2018. This bill will repeal and cancel the current regulations facilitating free movement. Once free movement has ended, EU nationals and their families who wish to come to the UK will have to satisfy UK immigration rules and will require special permission to enter and remain here. The Home Office concede that it will take time for the new skills-based immigration system to be established and for EU nationals already living in the UK to apply for recognition of their status under the EU Settlement Scheme. Temporary transitional arrangements will therefore be in place from 30 March 2019 until 31 December 2020, in order to allow “employers, universities, landlords and others to distinguish between pre-exit residents who are eligible to remain in the UK on broadly the same terms as now, and later arrivals”.
The Home Office’s 28 January policy paper confirms that EU nationals visiting the UK for short periods (defined as up to three months from each entry) will be able to continue entering the UK as they do now, and be able to use e-gates at ports of entry when travelling on their EU biometric passport. Up to 31 December 2020 all EU nationals will be able to enter the UK on either a valid passport or national ID card. EU nationals wishing to stay in the UK for longer than three months will need to make a separate application to the Home Office for leave to remain before the three-month period expires (see our previous blog).
A key part of the 28 January 2019 policy paper is the statement that until “all resident EU citizens and their family members who are eligible for the EU Settlement Scheme have had a reasonable opportunity to apply for and be granted status, which will be by the end of December 2020, we will not ask employers or other third parties, such as landlords, to start distinguishing between EU citizens who were resident [in the UK] before exit and post-exit arrivals”. This means that checks on EU nationals’ status in the UK will only start to be carried out from 2021, once the Government’s new immigration system is in place. “Until 2021”, the policy paper states, “EU citizens will continue to be able to evidence their rights to work and to rent property using a passport or national identity card, and non-EU family members will use a biometric residence document”.
The Home Office have separately confirmed that the 28 January 2019 policy paper can be relied upon to confirm the UK Government’s acceptance that an EU passport and/or residence document will be sufficient to prove status in the UK up to 31 December 2020.
We would recommend that holders of EU passports and their non-EU family members who hold biometric residence documents print a copy of this policy paper in order to refer to it if necessary. The key paragraphs of the policy paper are at paragraphs 12 and 13, and the full document can be viewed at: https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/eu-immigration-after-free-movement-ends-if-theres-no-deal/immigration-from-30-march-2019-if-there-is-no-deal
Gherson have extensive experience of the EU Settlement Scheme and related issues. If you are an EU national or a family member of an EU national and require any advice or assistance with your status in the UK, please do not hesitate to contact us.