UK Officials Plan Strengthened Immigration Controls for EU citizens on No-Deal Brexit


As the looming no-deal Brexit comes closer, the UK government has published information on new immigration control policies for EU nationals that should come into force after October 31, 2019. The key message proposes termination for the freedom of movement right after the UK leaves the EU without a deal. 


The government had earlier announced a transitory arrangement in effect until December 31, 2020. According to the agreement, EEA nationals would be able to enter the UK for work without a visa for a period of three months. If EEA nationals were planning to stay longer, they could apply for European TLR (Temporary Leave to Remain) valid for three years with a right to employment. After these three years, European nationals would have switched to a new visa category valid under the new immigration rules. 


This earlier agreement was a slightly modified and very generous ‘edition’ of the freedom of movement. It would help the EU, EEA and Swiss nationals through a smooth transition before the new immigration system came into force on January 1, 2021.


The latest Home Office announcement may thwart with these plans. The government is now looking to introduce an ‘Australian style’ points-based immigration system. This may happen right on October 31, 2019, although the MAC (Migration Advisory Committee) hasn’t yet finished the respective report.


The Home Office has confirmed that EEA nationals will retain the right to enter the UK without a visa for tourism and business. They will also be able to enter through e-gates. That said, the latest announcement implies that, in case of a no-deal Brexit, EEA citizens entering to work, study and live in the UK on a long-term basis will be subject to the new immigration policy.


The new policy will affect UK employers looking for low or medium skilled workers from the EEA. Now, it will only be possible to sponsor highly skilled workers - and their skill sets and salary levels will be subject to inspection.


The UK employers will also have a hard time figuring out which potential EEA candidates have the right for employment in the UK. EEA citizens who resided in the UK before Brexit will still have the right to work in the United Kingdom after October 31. However, they may fail to have the documents to prove their right - in case they haven’t yet applied for a status under the EU Settlement Scheme. 


Meanwhile, the EEA nationals currently in the UK and lacking status under the Settlement Scheme are strongly recommended to apply as soon as possible in the view of the daunting no-deal Brexit. Also, EEA nationals who are thinking of coming to the UK at the end of 2019 or early 2020 may want to change their plans, enter the UK before October 31 and take advantage of the EU Settlement Scheme.


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