Feb 19, 2020 | Global

It’s happened: The United Kingdom (UK) officially left the European Union (EU) on January 31, 2020. Now what?

What does this mean for people moving to and from the UK?

Nothing for now. We are in a transition period until at least December 31, 2020.

During the transition period, EU law continues to apply to the UK, which means that EU citizens can live and work in the UK in exactly the same way as before. The same applies to other European Economic Area (EEA) nationals (nationals of Norway, Iceland, and Liechtenstein) and Swiss nationals. British citizens also keep their free movement rights in EEA states and Switzerland during the transition period.

The British government insists that the transition period will not be extended. If there is to be an extension, this must be agreed upon before July 1, 2020.

What will happen to EU citizens already living in the UK?

EU citizens who move to the UK before the end of the transition period will be able to stay as long as they apply for the EU Settlement Scheme. The deadline for applying is June 30, 2021.

Irish citizens do not have to apply for the EU Settlement Scheme. They will still be free to live and work in the UK after the transition period. The same goes for British citizens in Ireland.

What will happen to British citizens already living in the EU?

British citizens who start exercising a right of residence in another EU Member State before the end of the transition period will be able to stay, but they need to register with the authorities. The process varies from country to country.

What will the UK’s immigration system look like after the transition period?

The British government says that after the transition period, the same rules for work visas will apply to EU citizens as to everyone else. We do not yet know what those rules will be.

The British government’s Migration Advisory Committee (MAC) published a report on January 28, 2020, that warned against replacing the current system of sponsored visas for highly skilled workers (Tier 2) with an Australian-style points-based system. The MAC recommended keeping the Tier 2 model but with significant changes, including lowering the skills threshold to include medium-skilled jobs and lowering the main salary threshold from £30,000 to £25,600.

If the British government follows these recommendations, it will be far easier for employers to sponsor people for work visas, but it will be expensive. Fees for Tier 2 visas are already high and there are no plans to lower them. If anything, they will increase. Employers who rely on EU citizens to fill medium- and high-skilled roles will be spending a lot of money on visas.

There will need to be new immigration routes for low-skilled workers, at least in the short term. We do not yet know what those will be.

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