Immigration alert: the position of EEA citizens if the UK leaves the EU without a deal on 31 October 2019

23 August 2019

Following recent reports that the government plans to abruptly end freedom of movement for European Economic Area citizens if the UK leaves the EU without a deal on 31 October 2019, we set out below a reminder of the current position.

It has been reported that the Home Secretary, Priti Patel, intends to impose new border restrictions overnight should the UK leave without a deal on 31 October 2019. The Home Office has published a media factsheet in response to these reports. This has created some uncertainty for EU citizens.

EU citizens and their family members already living in the UK by 31 October 2019

Despite the uncertainty generated by the new reports, as things currently stand, in the event of a no-deal Brexit, all EU citizens (and their family members) living in the UK by 31 October 2019 will have until 31 December 2020 to apply under the EU Settlement Scheme. A grant of settled status or pre-settled status will preserve their right to reside in the UK.

The Home Office also sent out an alert on 21 August to this effect. The alert also sought to assure people that those already residing in the UK but who are not in the UK on 31 October 2019, will still be free to enter and those who have not applied under the scheme will continue to be able to prove their rights.

In the last few days, it has been reported that there has been such an increase in people making applications under the EU Settlement Scheme that the system is struggling to cope. However, we would still encourage all those eligible to apply under the scheme to apply as soon as possible. The application process is quick and simple.

British citizenship

EU nationals who have been resident in the UK for 5 years or more (or 3 years or more if married to a British citizen) may also wish to consider applying for British citizenship. Citizenship is one route which will provide complete security of the right to reside in the UK.

Some EU countries do not allow for dual citizenship so those who are concerned that they would lose their current citizenship would be advised to check the effect of obtaining a second nationality.

EU and EEA citizens coming to the UK after 31 October 2019

The position for those arriving from 1 November 2019 in the event of no-deal Brexit is now less clear.

The previous government had indicated that in the event of a no deal Brexit there would be a transition period covering the period until the planned future immigration system was in place (previously anticipated for 2021). During this time, EU nationals arriving after the Brexit date would be allowed to enter for up to 3 months and those who wished to remain beyond that would be able to apply for European Temporary Leave to Remain for up to 3 years.

However, the recent reports suggest this may now change. The Home Office media factsheet states:

what will change is the arrangements for people coming to the UK for longer periods of time and for work and study. Details of other changes immediately after 31 October and improvements to the previous government’s plans for a new immigration system are being developed.”

We will continue to monitor the situation and will issue new alerts when more information becomes available.

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