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Free Movement will end as soon as the UK leaves the European Union at 11 pm 29 March 2019. However, the UK government has assured citizens and businesses that there will be no immediate ‘cliff edge’ of EU migration after Brexit.
To the relief of many, the Home Office announced this week that there will be an ‘interim period’. In this time frame, EEA citizens will still be able to work, live or study in the UK – even in the event of coming to the UK after a no deal Brexit.
This “interim period” is set to come into effect as soon as the UK leaves the EU. The idea is that this time frame will allow a gentler transition for the UK as it moves from Free Movement into a “skills-based” immigration system. This plan will be applicable to all non-UK migrants after 31 December 2020. The Government explains the interim is necessary since it “will take some time to implement this new system”.
Only after December 2020 will, EU migrants face visa regulations and immigration rules. Such a move will safeguard many UK businesses and industries from an immediate loss to their EU talent pools.
Prior to Brexit, EEA nationals currently living and working in the UK are eligible to apply for the EU Settlement Scheme. This will grant successful applicants with either Permanent Status or Pre-Settled Status.
Fortunately, EEA citizens who fall short at applying for the EU Settlement Scheme can rest assured. Even in the event of a ‘no deal’, EU migrants will be able to enter the UK under an alternative scheme.
EEA nationals will be able to enter the UK before the “skills-based” immigration plan is launched in 2021. Migrants will not need to pay nor will they need to apply for a visa to enter. However, EU citizens will only be eligible to enter and work in the UK this way for a maximum of three months.
EU nationals keen on staying in the UK for longer than three months must apply for European Temporary Leave to Remain instead. This immigration status grants EEA citizens entry into the UK to live, work or study for as long as 36 months.
Crucially, however, this route will not allow EU migrants to settle permanently. Applicants will not be able to extend or renew this immigration status. European Temporary Leave to Remain is only a temporary alternative which will not result in any form of permanent settlement such as Indefinite Leave to Remain.
European Temporary Leave to Remain will be available to migrants online and will come with a fee. To successfully apply, applicants will only need to prove their identity and declare any criminal convictions – similar to that of the EU Settlement Scheme.
As the Home Office notes: “there may be some who do not qualify under the new arrangements and who will need to leave the UK when their leave expires.”
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