In just two days, the UK will leave the EU. Given the volume of news coverage and commentary since the Withdrawal Agreement was finalised at the end of last year, there will be few people in in this country and beyond who are not aware of the imminent ‘Exit Day’ – Friday 31 January 2020, officially at 23:00 GMT.

Despite the media focus on this date and time, there will in fact be no changes to the rights and status of EEA nationals and their family members currently residing in the UK as Freedom of Movement will not end on Exit Day.

From Exit Day the UK will be in a transition period, which means that EU nationals can continue to come to the UK, as they have been doing, until 31 December 2020 (unless this date is extended).

EU Settlement Scheme

EEA citizens who are resident in the UK by 31 December 2020 will have until 30 June 2021 to apply under the EU Settlement Scheme for immigration status.

To continue living and working in the UK past 30 June 2021, EEA nationals and their family members will need to apply under the EU Settlement Scheme for status or will need to qualify for status under the new immigration system (see below).

The type of status granted depends on length of residence in the UK. EU nationals will either be granted ‘pre-settled status’ where they have been resident for less than five years or ‘settled status’ where they have been continuously resident for five years or more (in certain cases, historic residence may be evidenced to establish a grant of ‘settled status’).

Applications under the EU Settlement Scheme are intended to be relatively simple and straightforward , with no application fee. Applicants will need to:

  • prove their identity;
  • prove their residence; and
  • pass criminal checks.

Applicants can prove their identity via an Android or iPhone app, the remainder of the application form is completed online.

A preliminary decision will be given immediately after submission (ie on screen) and the formal decision arrives by email a few weeks later. Applicants will not receive a document but instead, their status can be checked online.

Employers can check an employee’s status, via gov.uk/view-right-to-work with a ‘share’ code.

New immigration system

A new ‘Australian style’ points-based’ immigration system is to be unveiled in the coming days . The new immigration system will be introduced by the end of 2020 and will apply to EEA nationals arriving to the UK after 31 December 2020.

It is expected to treat all EEA and non-EEA nationals equally. The Migration Advisory Committee report, published on 28 January 2020, recommends that the Tier 2 (General) category remains largely unchanged and is expanded to medium-skill jobs. It has also recommended abolishing the skills cap and the minimum salary threshold of £30,000, with occupation specific salary thresholds and a ‘simplified formula’ for new entrant thresholds to replace it.

Right to work

There will be no changes to the way employers conduct right to work checks on EEA nationals until 30 June 2021. For now, employers can continue to accept EEA passports and national IDs as evidence of right to work.

Travelling to Europe

British nationals will be allowed to continue to travel in the EEA relying only on a British passport until at least 31 December 2020. For updates, please see the following link: gov.uk/visit-europe-brexit.