In a reversal of its previous decision (see our earlier bulletin on this) to end free movement if we leave the EU with no deal, the Home Secretary announced last week that EU nationals arriving after Exit Day will still be able to live and work in the UK for a temporary period. This climb-down was forced upon the Government because it would have been unable to introduce the new system in time for the UK's planned departure on the 31 October. A temporary scheme will instead replace free movement which will allow EU nationals to work in the UK for a 3 year period. Under this scheme, which is based upon an earlier one devised under Theresa May's administration, EU nationals who arrive in the UK before the end of next year can apply to remain for 3 years. EU nationals arriving before the 31 December 2020 will therefore be able to stay until the 31 December 2023.
The new scheme will be open to European Economic Area nationals (including Swiss nationals) — as well as their "close family" members — who move to the UK for the first time after Exit Day. According to the Government, the online application process will be "simple and free" and will involve identity, security and criminality checks. EU citizens will receive a digital document confirming their status entitling them to work and rent property during this period. EU citizens wishing to stay on in the UK after their temporary status expires will need to make a further application under the new points-based immigration system. Whilst this change is embarrassing for the Government coming so soon after it announced the free movement would end, it will be welcomed by employers who won't now be required to distinguish between EU citizens who arrived before and after exit until the future new immigration system is introduced in 2021.