Employing EU citizens in the UK – what you need to know with and without a Brexit deal and beyond

30th March 2019- 31st Dec 2020

If the proposed (November 18) Withdrawal Agreement is in place

Freedom of movement remains during the transition period, that is until 31st December 2020 or it could be until the end of 2022 if the transition period is extended (as the November 18 draft of the Withdrawal Agreement permits). The transition period is referred to in the Withdrawel Agreement as the  'ImplementationPeriod'

Those living lawfully in the UK before the end of the  Implementation period are eligible for ‘settled status’ under the EU Settlement Scheme which will be open fully by 30 March 2019 and the deadline for applying is 30th June 2021. 

The cost for an application was announced as £65 for an adult and, interestingly, some employers indicated that they would meet this cost for their employees who are EU citizens working in the UK. However, following the  defeat of the Government's withdrawal agreement  in the 'meaningful vote' in the House of Commons, the Prime Minsiter announced, on 21st January 2019, that the fee would be scrapped. 

The main points of the settlement scheme are

  • EU citizens who have been living in the UK continuously for five years will be eligible for settled status in UK law.
  • EU citizens who arrived before the end of the Implementation Period, but who have not been here for five years, will be eligible for pre-settled status, enabling them to stay until they have accumulated five years, after which they may apply for settled status
  • the Withdrawal Agreement will also allow close family members who live in a different country to join an EU citizen at any time in the future under current rules, if the relationship existed before the end of the Implementation Period
  • EU citizens protected by the agreement will continue to be able to work, study and establish a business in the UK as now
  • EU citizens with settled status or pre-settled status to stay may access healthcare, pensions and other benefits and services in the UK, as they do currently
  • frontier workers (EU citizens who reside in one state, and work in the UK) will continue to be able to enter the UK to work under current rules, if they started this work before the end of the Implementation Period
  • even those EU citizens with Permanent residence should apply for settled status.
  • Irish citizens do not need to obtain settled status. 


In the case of a no deal Brexit

In December 2018, the government issued a Policy paper on citizens' rights in the event of a no deal Brexit

The main points are:

  • There will be no transition period . 
  • The UK will continue to run the EU Settlement Scheme for those resident in the UK by 29 March 2019 in a ‘no deal’ scenario  so that EU citizens and their family members  resident in the UK by 29 March 2019 will be able  to work, study, and access benefits and services in the UK on the same basis after we exit the EU as they do now.
  • Those here by 29 March 2019 will have until 31 December 2020 to apply for status under the scheme. Until this time, EU citizens will continue to be able to rely on their passport (as a British citizen may) or national identity card if they are asked to evidence their right to reside in the UK when, for example, applying for a job, as they do currently.
  • As there would be no agreed implementation period, those EU citizens and their family members resident here by 29 March 2019 would have until 31 December 2020 to apply for a status under the EU Settlement Scheme, but with no six-month ‘grace period’ beyond this.
  • EU citizens with settled status would be able to be joined in the UK, by 29 March 2022, by existing close family members, such as children, spouses and partners, parents and grandparents living overseas at exit, where the relationship existed by 29 March 2019 (or where a child was born overseas after this date) and continued to exist when the family member applied.


In January 2019, the Government outlined no deal arrangements for EU citizens who enter the UK to visit, work or study after 29 March 2019 in the event of no deal,

The government will seek to end free movement as soon as possible and has introduced the Immigration and Social Security Co-ordination (EU Withdrawal) Bill 2017-19 to achieve this.  EEA and Swiss citizens who arrive after 29th March and wish to stay longer than three months will need to apply to the Home Office fo rEuropean Temporary  Leave to Remain (ETLR) within three months of arrival. Subject to identity, criminality and security checks, leave to remain will be granted for 36 months which will include permission to work and study. ). It will not lead to indefinite leave to remain in the UK or status under the EU Settlement Scheme. EU citizens wishing to stay for longer than three years will need to make a further application under the new skills-based future immigration system, which will begin from 2021 (see below).

What about EFTA citizens?

In December 2018 , the government announced that it had reached agreements with Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway and Switzerland on protecting citizens' rights post Brexit. Essentially, the UK’s Settlement Scheme will apply to EEA EFTA and Swiss nationals in the same way as EU citizens,

From 1st January 2021- a new Immigration system for the UK

Government proposals

In December 2018, the  government published a White Paper making it clear that freedom of movement will end on 31 December 2020 and setting out key provisions for 2021 and beyond, which will apply whether  we leave Europe with or without a deal.

The White Paper takes into account the recommendations made in the Migration Advisory Committee report on the impact of EEA migration in the UK published in September 2018.

Proposals in the White Paper include:

  • Introducing a single, uncapped route which gives access to highly skilled and skilled workers from all countries.
  • Such workers will need an employer to sponsor them, but employers will no longer be required to carry out a resident labour market test as a condition of sponsoring a worker.
  • The aim will be for the sponsorship system to be  straightforward and light touch as possible, and to process the great majority of work visas within two to three weeks.
  • The government will engage businesses and employers as to what salary threshold for skilled labour but they refer to the recommendations made by the Migration Advisory report of retaining the minimum salary threshold at £30,000
  • There will be no separate scheme for unskilled labour but a transitional arrangement will be put in place allowing for 12-month visas for workers from specified countries for which there will be no specific sponsorship requirement but also no right to access public funds or bring dependents.