Brexit oﬃcially began on Friday 31st January 2020 at 23.00. This was shortly followed by the end of freedom of movement for EU nationals and members of the EU Economic area, according to the Immigration and Social Security Coordination (EU Withdrawal) Act (2021).
EU citizens are now expected to provide the same documentation as citizens of other countries worldwide, with the exception of Irish nationals, who do not require permission to enter or emigrate to the UK, in line with the Common Travel Area arrangements. Irish nationals therefore do not require a visa, employment permit, or residence permit for travel to the UK.
EU citizens who had been living in the UK prior to Brexit were required to apply for the EU Resettlement Scheme to ensure that they could legally remain in the UK after the state exited the European Union. It also meant that EU citizens were required to provide a visa if they were looking to work, study, or join family in the UK.
Here, we will outline the changes to immigration law post-Brexit, and what you can expect now when travelling to the UK.
Short Stays And Holidays
Overall, there has been little change to how EU nationals can holiday in the UK or make short visits for events or festivals etc. However, there are a few changes which may aﬀect the ways in which EU nationals can spend their time in the UK.
- Holidays do not require a visa: EU, EEA and Swiss citizens may stay for up to six months as a ‘Standard Visitor’ in the UK without requiring a visa. They may visit the country as many times as they like in a given period, as long as each stay does not exceed six months.
- Standard Visitors are not permitted to carry out work for UK companies or as a self-employed worker without a visa: However, according to the Immigration Rules, Standard Visitors may holiday, volunteer for up to 30 days with a registered charity, and study at an accredited institution which is not publicly funded, for up to six months. They may also carry out limited business activities in the UK, as long as the work for the client is conducted outside of the UK. This includes business meetings, seminars, conferences, interviews, briefings, non-commercial talks and speeches, attending trade fairs (though sales are not permitted), and business negotiations, and deals. Business visitors may not do a work internship or sell goods or services without a visa.
- By the end of 2024, visitors who do not require a visa for short stays will need to apply for the electronic travel authorisation scheme: Carriers will be required to check permission to travel before boarding. This is to tighten security checks and to make advanced decisions regarding entries to the UK.
- Passports are required for entry to the UK: As of October 2021, EU, EEA, and Swiss ID cards are no longer valid for entry to the UK. All visitors are now required to use a passport. Passports must be valid for 6 months following entry to the UK.
- End to EU-Fast Track lanes: EU nationals are no longer given priority to board, which means an end to Fast Track lanes at air and ferry ports. This may result in longer border crossings. Visitors may also be required to prove that they are capable of returning to the EU by displaying either a return ticket or proof of financial means.
- Travel Health Insurance: EHIC cards issued before the end of 2020 will remain valid until their expiry date. On expiry, visitors will be required to apply for the UK Global Health Insurance Card (GHIC), which covers pre-existing conditions, maternity care, and emergency treatment.
The Immigration Implications
The government introduced a points-based immigration system on January 1st 2021, which applies to both EU nationals and global citizens. This move meant that highly skilled workers were given priority for immigration, including workers from scientific, academic, and engineering fields.
The oﬃcial policy statement of February 2020 reads:
‘From 1 January 2021, EU and non-EU citizens will be treated equally. We will reduce overall levels of migration and give top priority to those with the highest skills and the greatest talents: scientists, engineers, academics, and other highly skilled workers.
‘We will replace free movement with the UK’s points-based system to cater for the most highly skilled workers, skilled workers, students, and a range of other specialist work routes including routes for global leaders and innovators.
‘We will not introduce a general low-skilled or temporary work route. We need to shift the focus of our economy away from a reliance on cheap labour from Europe and instead concentrate on investment in technology and automation. Employers will need to adjust.
‘Citizens applying for permission to work in the UK will now be required to apply for a Skilled Worker Visa, or an alternative option such as intracompany transfer, family member or global talent visas.’
As of 2020, citizens who exercised freedom of movement prior to Brexit were required to apply for the EU Resettlement Scheme to secure their right to remain in the UK.
Successful applicants were granted Pre-settled status (limited leave to remain) if they had lived in the UK for under five years, or Settled status (indefinite leave to remain) if they had lived in the UK for over five years. The application period closed on June 30th 2021.
Happy Holidays And Rarer Relocations
Overall, travel to the UK after Brexit is still relatively simple for EU-based tourists and holidaymakers, although they will need to present their passport when entering the country, which is not something they were required to do when the UK was subject to the EU’s agreements for streamlined travel.
However, those seeking to relocate to the UK on a more permanent basis will face increased barriers and more mandatory barriers that they must meet if they are to be allowed to settle in the country and begin a new life there.
But the debate over Brexit and its implications is far from over, with some in the UK calling for greater re-integration with the EU and smoother trade and travel relationships between the blocs. This means the current status quo may be liable to change again in the coming years.