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14 September 2020

Immigration Update for EU Nationals

Brexit has caused a lot of concern amongst EU nationals as to what their position is in the UK and what will happen when the UK exits the EU with the end of the transition period on 31 December 2020.

Importantly, free movement will continue to apply until the end of the Brexit transition period at 11pm on the 31 December 2020. Thereafter, EU nationals (and this includes the EEA countries and Switzerland) will become subject to UK i mmigration control and will need a visa to live in the UK unless they are eligible under the EU Settlement Scheme (EUSS).

EU Settlement Scheme (EUSS)

In order to safeguard the rights of EU citizens after Brexit, the UK government introduced EUSS. This scheme became fully operational on 30 March 2019. Under this scheme EU (and EEA and Swiss) citizens who have continuously resided in the UK for at least five years are eligible for settled status (also known as indefinite leave to remain/settlement). Those with less than five years residence are eligible for pre-settled status (also known as limited leave to remain) which is granted for a period of 5 years. This will allow them to complete five years’ residence becoming eligible for settled status.

To qualify for settled status under the EUSS the applicant’s absences must be no more than 180 days in any 12 month period in the 5 years. If their absences are in excess in some exceptional cases it may be possible for the UK immigration authorities to exercise discretion and allow the application. If applicants cannot qualify for settlement, the pre-settled status cannot be extended and so the applicant will need to apply for a new visa to stay in the UK.

To qualify for pre-settled status under EUSS the applicant must be physically present in the UK before the end of the transition period so it is important people enter before then if they want to register. Applicants do not need to be in the UK for a minimum period to register but we would recommend at least 24-48 hours.  Applicants will need their EU passport and proof of presence in the UK e.g. something with the UK address on (even a hotel invoice with the hotel’s address could suffice) or a plane ticket. The EU national can then leave the UK. Pre-settled status is lost if the holder is absent from the UK for 2 years or more.

EU nationals coming to the UK from 1 January 2021

EU nationals entering after this date who are not eligible under the EUSS must have a visa to live in the UK. EU nationals can still enter the UK as visitors, visa free for up to 6 months but if they want to live in the UK for longer periods, or work and study in the UK, then visas will be required. EU nationals will come under the current immigration system used for non EU nationals. This system is undergoing some changes in January in preparation for Brexit.

The New Immigration System from 1 January 2021

Possible visa routes that could be used:

  • Tier 2 work visas for EU nationals with a UK employer as sponsor (could potentially include their own business that sponsors them)
  • Sole representative where the EU national is employed by an overseas business to set up operations in the UK for the first time (not suitable for majority shareholders of the overseas business)
  • Innovator where the EU national has an innovative new company (requires an approved body to endorse the business)
  • Tier 1 Investor for high net worth clients with £2million GBP to invest in the UK
  • Student and post study work visas for EU nationals studying usually at degree level and those graduating in the UK
  • Appendix FM partner/parent visa for EU nationals with a British citizen/or settled spouse/ partner/ child
  • Global Talent visas for leaders or potential leaders in academia, research, digital technology and arts and culture

There may also be a new visa for the highly skilled but this will not be brought in until later next year.

UK visas usually cost several thousand pounds and have an immigration health surcharge. The visa processing can also take several weeks particularly due to coronavirus related delays. 

Due to coronavirus, many priority visa processing services have been suspended while the UK immigration authorities clear the backlog of cases. It is important applicants remember that it can take time to secure the visa and that travel to the UK in the interim is usually not possible. Depending on where clients are travelling from they may also be required to self-isolate and quarantine themselves for 14 days after their arrival in the UK due to coronavirus.


For more information, please contact Rose Carey or Elena Vasilyeva or your usual Charles Russell Speechlys contact.

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