On 31 December 2020, free movement between the UK and the European Union (EU) ended. EU citizens who lived in the UK before 31 December 2020 must apply to the EU Settlement Scheme to retain their residency rights in the UK. The deadline for such applications is 30 June 2021, though late applications may be accepted under certain circumstances. All other EU citizens are now subject to the points-based immigration system as all non-British nationals are. In other words, anyone entering the country since 1 January 2021 must either already possess valid permission to enter or remain in the UK, or they must seek permission to enter as a visitor at the border.
For many EU citizens trying to come to the UK, this has led to confusion and in some cases immigration action has been taken against them. Since January, some EU citizens have been detained upon arrival in the UK because they did not have the right to work or the correct visa to enter the UK. What are the rules exactly?
Preliminarily it should be stated that EU countries are not on the visa nationals list. EU citizens seeking to come to the UK as a visitor will not need to apply for a visitor visa. They can simply fly to the UK and ask for permission to enter the country as a visitor once they land at the border. Visitors are defined as persons “who want to visit the UK for a temporary period, (usually for up to 6 months), for purposes such as tourism, visiting friends or family, carrying out a business activity, or undertaking a short course of study.” This definition indicates some of the restrictions that come with visitor status. Importantly, EU visitors are not allowed to access public funds during their stay in the UK, nor are they allowed to work.
The “business activity” exception does not allow for EU citizens to find a job and work in the UK. Rather, it allows the visitor to undertake certain permitted activities relating to work. For EU-based businesses wanting to send their EU citizen employees to the UK for secondments or other business activities, Appendix V of the Immigration Rules is of paramount importance as it lays out the only route for them to do so, including which type of activities are allowed.
To what extent work is permitted whilst one is in the UK on a visitor visa is a complicated matter, laid out in Appendix V. The rules state that all work is prohibited except the types of work specifically laid out in there. Permitted activities thus include attending meetings, conferences and seminars in the context of the visitor’s job abroad. Meetings may include contract negotiations, closing business deals as well as job interviews. Importantly, however, if a job interview leads to a job offer, the visitor can under no circumstance start the job without applying for a work visa first. If a visitor secures an offer of future employment, they must leave the UK, apply for the appropriate entry clearance from abroad, and then return once they have the right status. Additionally, certain sectors such as journalism, religious work or scientific and academic research are permitted on a visitor visa.
The maximum length of stay for a visitor in the UK is of six months from the date of entry. This is the same for visa and non-visa nationals; if the visitor stays for longer than six months they will be registered as overstayers and be in the UK unlawfully. This may lead to issues the next time they try to return to the UK, as a border officer will be suspicious of their motivations. Considering the potential consequences, it is therefore important to understand what one is and is not allowed to do once they arrive in the UK on a visitor visa.
To sum up, if you are an EU citizen working for an EU company without residency rights in the UK (whether under the EUSS or otherwise), your ability to work in the UK on a visitor visa is limited to the visitor visa requirements. This includes a time limit of six months and also a set list of permitted activities. If you or your employer want you to work beyond that, they will have to apply for a business licence in the UK and set up a structure here.
If you need legal assistance with the EU Settlement Scheme, or have any other questions, you can contact us here, call us on 020 8142 8211, or send us a question on WhatsApp.
The UK government is currently finalising Brexit talks with the EU before the end of the transition period in just under two weeks, on 31 December 2020. After that, EU law will no longer be applicable in the UK, and UK citizens will no longer fall under the scope of EU rules. This has significant effects on the movement of people, with which we are concerned.
From 1 January 2021, it will no longer be as straightforward for British people to move, live or travel in the EU.
For British citizens who want to reside in the EU after this date, everything will depend on when they move to the country in question. If they move before the end of the transition period, they will be able to retain broadly the same rights they had at the time they moved there, when EU law was still applicable in the UK. This is the case even if there is no UK-EU Trade deal by the end of the month, as this is guaranteed under the Withdrawal Agreement which became effective on 1 February 2020. It becomes more complicated if a British citizen wants to move to the EU after 1 January 2021, as their automatic right to live and work in the EU ceases after the transition period. They will then need to apply in accordance with that country’s existing immigration rules.
Those looking to work in the EU after 31 December 2020 will need to make sure that their professional qualifications are recognised in the EU.
To travel to the EU for a visit, British citizens will not need to apply for a visa initially, as the EU has agreed to waive the visa requirement and add the UK to their list of visa-exempt countries. Until the end of 2022, this means that all a British national needs to travel to an EU country is a valid passport.
Effectively, this means that British citizens can spend up to 90 days out of any 180 day period in the EU for business, tourism or to visit friends and family without having to apply for a visa. This is contingent upon the UK returning the favour, and allowing citizens of all EU member states to visit the UK under similar circumstances. If the UK introduces a visa requirement for nationals of at least one member state, the EU will reciprocate by introducing EU-wide visa requirements for UK nationals. The visa waiver will be applicable in all EU member states except Ireland, which has a specific bilateral arrangement which provides for visa-free travel between them. The Schengen associated countries (Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway and Switzerland) also have a separate arrangement with the UK.
However, even if British citizens are not required to fill out a visa application, they will still face increased administrative burdens when traveling. From 1 January 2021, EU border guards may ask people travelling from the UK for additional information including the duration and purpose of their stay, and might then check their passports. In contrast with the current rules, under which a passport is deemed valid as long as it has not expired, traveller’s passports will have to be valid for at least six months after the end of their trip in order to be considered valid travel documents. Additionally, the British citizen traveling will need to have a valid travel insurance.
From 2023 onwards, the conditions for British citizens to enter the bloc will change, as the European Travel Information and Authorisation System (Etias) is set to come into operation then, introducing visa-style fees forms for people wanting to travel to the EU not unlike the American ESTA-system. Under Etias, visitors to the EU's Schengen Area will have to obtain a travel authorisation before their trip and pay a €7 fee. Those who have to pay the fee include people from countries on the visa-exempt list, and therefore British citizens. Other countries not on the visa-exempt list already have to obtain a full visa to travel to the EU, which is much more complicated and costly.
If you need assistance you can contact us here, call us on 020 8142 8211 or send us a question on WhatsApp.