One of the many outstanding issues for immigration lawyers was how EU citizens would be able to enter the UK after 29 March 2019 in the event of a “no deal” scenario. Whilst a new immigration system is due to come into force in 2021, the situation remained unclear as to what would happen to any EU citizen seeking to enter the UK after the UK had left the EU in March in the event of a no deal.  On 28 January 2019, the Home Secretary, Sajid Javid set out the provisions for EU citizens coming to the UK after the EU exit.

The Home Secretary’s announcement made it clear that the freedom of movement of EU citizens would end and a new scheme would immediately be imposed. A new Immigration Bill has been introduced to cover the period following the departure from the EU but before the new skills based immigration system comes into force in January 2021.

During this transitional period EEA citizens and their family members would still be able to come to the UK to visit, work or study for a period of less than three months. If they wish to stay longer than 3 months then they will need to apply for European Temporary Leave to Remain.  This will require an online application together with a payment of a fee, the level of which has yet to be announced.  It will also require the applicant to prove their identity and declare any criminal convictions.   The Temporary Leave to Remain allows the individual to stay in the UK for 36 months from the date of their application.  It does not give indefinite leave to remain or lead to status under the EU Settlement Scheme.  If they wish to stay longer than the 3 years, then they will need to make a further application under the plan for the skills based immigration system, proposals for which were published in December.  It is hoped that these transitional measures represent a practical approach which minimises disruption and ensures the UK stays open for business in the event of a no-deal.

Those citizens who are in the UK before 29 March 2019 retain the right to apply for Settled Status or Pre-Settled Status under the EU Settlement Scheme. If the Withdrawal Agreement is signed then any EU citizen arriving in the UK until December 2020 would retain this right. Whilst the Home Secretary’s announcement has provided clarity on the no deal scenario, much still remains dependant on any agreement reached before 29 March.

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