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The End of Free Movement – Considerations


At 11pm on 31 December 2020, Free Movement will come to an end. “Free Movement” is the colloquial term for the right of EU nationals to move freely between Member States of the European Union. In this context, EU nationals should be taken to include EEA nationals and Switzerland. ‘

On 31 January 2020 (11pm), the UK formally left the European Union. The time between 11:00 pm on 31 January 2020 until 11pm 31 December 2020 has been called the ‘transitional period’. During this period, EU nationals have been able to move freely in and out of the United Kingdom. Employers were also able to rely on EU passports or ID cards as evidence of an EU national’s right to work.

In preparation for the end of Free Movement, the Home Office launched a visa service which specifically provides a visa route for EU nationals. This visa service was called the “EU Settlement Scheme” and covers EU nationals who have been in the UK for less than five years as well as those who have been here for more than five years. EU nationals who are resident in the UK prior to 11pm on 31 December 2020 are eligible to apply under the EU Settlement Scheme. The deadline for applications (for those EU nationals who are resident in the UK before 11pm on 31 December 2020) is 31 June 2021. This means that there will be a six-month window during which it is possible for an EU national to be lawfully resident in the United Kingdom but not actually have any documentation to confirm this fact.

An EU national who applies to the EU Settlement Scheme will either receive ‘pre-settled’ status or ‘settled’ status (depending on their length of residence in the UK). EU nationals will not be issued visa documentation but rather will have an electronic visa issued. This visa will sit on the Home Office system and will be linked to the EU national via their passport or ID card number. Those who are issued ‘pre-settled’ status will be able to convert it to settled status once they have completed five years residence in the United Kingdom (even if this five-year date is after 31 June 2021).

Against this background, there are several key considerations that employers will need to be aware of when it comes to preparing for Brexit.


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