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Immigration Solicitors

The UK has left the EU - what happens to the free movement of EU nationals? (4 February 2020)

Date: 04/02/2020
Duncan Lewis, Immigration Solicitors, The UK has left the EU - what happens to the free movement of EU nationals?

The UK left the European Union (EU) on 31 January 2020, after almost four years of Brexit negotiations. On 23 June 2016 the people of Britain voted to leave the EU since then the country has endured three different Prime Ministers, two general elections, and a hung parliament, as the Conservative party attempted to secure the best exit deal for the UK.

What’s next for EU nationals in the UK?

In December 2019, Home Secretary Priti Patel, told The Independent that after Brexit, her party would introduce a US-style visa scheme for any non-Brit visiting Britain. Although this may be popular among some Conservative voters, the likelihood is that such a system would result in a visa price feud with the EU, and would almost certainly increase the cost for Brits travelling abroad.

Ms Patel was unclear however, on what will happen to free movement. With up to a third of the estimated 3.4 million UK-based EU nationals yet to apply for the new status, the Aire Centre warned of a “ticking time bomb” for businesses that rely on European staff who may now lose their right to stay in the country. A charity which runs a Home Office-supported project to help vulnerable people access the program has warned that Brexit could create this generation’s Windrush.

The government made it clear in an announcement on 4 September 2019, that there will be strict regimes and border control in place for those entering the UK, if we were to leave the EU without a deal. The Home Office initially confirmed that EU nationals and their family members had until 31 December 2019 to regularise their status under the EU Settlement Scheme, however the Home Office has since announced a transitional period until the end of 2020, with the new rules expected to take effect from 1st January 2021.


How we can help

If you are an EU national you must apply under the EU Settlement Scheme for settled or pre-settled status. The scheme is now open and free of charge. An application can be completed online or through the EU Exit ID document check. There are certain key documents you must have with you prior to submitting your application, including a valid passport or ID card and evidence of your residency in the UK.

If your application is successful, you will be able to obtain either settled or pre-settled status in the UK. EU nationals who have lived in the UK for five years or more will be eligible for settled status. New arrivals and those who have been living in the UK for less than five years will be eligible for pre-settled status. You will not be given the option to choose which status you receive, this will depend on how long you have been living in the UK at the time of completing the application.

Your rights will vary depending on which status you are granted, however, under both settled and pre-settled status, you will have the right to:


  • Work in the UK

  • Use the NHS

  • Enroll in education or continue studying

  • Access public funds such as benefits and pensions, if you are eligible

  • Travel in and out of the UK


If you have settled status you are able to spend up to four consecutive years outside of the UK without losing your settled status. On other hand, with pre-settled status you can only spend up to two consecutive years outside of the UK. You have to maintain continuous residence if you want to qualify for settled status.

At Duncan Lewis Solicitors our immigration department can assist EU nationals wishing to obtain settled or pre-settled status in the UK with their applications. Our solicitors can assist with a fast track application by checking all documents and submitting the application within a day of your appointment.

Author Tamana Aziz is a director in the business immigration department at Duncan Lewis. Her specialist practice includes immigration applications under EU law, business immigration under the Points Based System (PBS), complex appeals (including deportation and country guidance cases) in Immigration Tribunals, the High Court, Court of Appeal and the Supreme Court.

Contact Tamana on 020 3114 1130 or at tamanaa@duncanlewis.com


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