Can EU Citizens Work in the UK After Brexit?


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The short answer is, Yes, EU citizens can work in the UK after Brexit, but they need to apply under the Skilled Worker Visa or EU Settlement Scheme (EUSS)

Changes After Brexit

The formation of the European Union (EU) saw free movement of goods, services, people as well as capital among the member countries, which included the United Kingdom (UK). Following the official exit of Britain (UK) on 29th March 2019, it hasn’t been business as usual for the European Union (EU) citizens who used to enjoy the freedom of migrating and working in the United Kingdom, among other EU countries before Brexit.

Who are EU Citizens?

Upon leaving the EU, the UK changed its way of handling citizens from the remaining 27 EU countries. These countries include Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, Croatia, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Ireland, Italy, Latvia, Lithuania, Republic of Cyprus, Czech Republic, Luxembourg, Malta, Netherlands, Poland, Spain, Sweden, Portugal, Slovakia, Slovenia and Romania. When we talk about the EU citizens, we are referring to the nationals of these 27 EU member countries. However the same Brexit rules also apply to citizens of EEA countries such as Norway, Liechtenstein and Switzerland. 

The UK Skilled Worker Visa and EU Settlement Scheme 

Having an EU passport or national identity card only is no longer valid proof of an EU citizen’s right to work in the UK. Starting from 1st January 2021, any EU citizen who’s residing outside the UK but interested in working in the country is required to have a UK skilled worker visa for their immigration request to be successful. This includes the employer obtaining a sponsorship licence to employ from abroad. However, Irish citizens are exempted from the restriction, as the UK and Ireland still uphold free trade between the two countries, thus free movement of workers. 

Even if you were an EU ex-pat working in the UK before 1st January 2021, you might also be required to have a visa to continue working in the country, especially if you had not applied for the pre-settled or settled status uder the EU Settlement Scheme. For most EU ex-pats, they had until 30th June 2021 to obtain the necessary work visa or apply to c) if they were living in the country by 31st December 2020. 

If an EU citizen working in the UK didn’t manage to apply to the EUSS on time, the Home Office had issued a special provision that allowed them to make the application within 28 days after the 30th June Deadline. The application was likely to be successful if it showed that the applicant had missed the application deadline on reasonable grounds. Citing illness or domestic abuse by your spouse is among the reasons that can be considered reasonable grounds for failing to submit your application on time.

Otherwise, an EU worker living in the UK without a work visa or pre-settled/ settled status under EUSS risks being labelled an overstayer and possible subsequent deportation to their home countries. 

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EU Settlement Scheme Exemptions 

Not every UK citizen needs EUSS pre-settled or settled to work in the United Kingdom. For instance, the UK immigration law exempts the following categories of UK existing workers before 1st January 2021 from applying under the scheme:

  • British citizens
  • The citizens of Ireland 
  • EU nationals born in the UK, with at least one of their parents having EUSS settled status
  • EU nationals who’ve been granted permanent residence right in the UK by the Home Office

Pre-Settled and Settled Status 

Both settled and pre-settled status allows an EU citizen to work, live or work in the UK after Brexit. Nevertheless, pre-settled status limits the duration of enjoying these rights to just five years. On the other hand, with settled status, you can live, work, or study in the country for an indefinite period and can acquire British citizenship.  

If you are an EU national, pre-settled status can be a gateway to settled status unless you have a criminal record that makes the Home Office identify you as a security threat. For you to acquire settled status through pre-settled status, you have to spend at least six months of each of the five years of your pre-settled period in the UK, unless you have reasonable grounds to be absent beyond six months per year. Besides, you should abide by the laws of the land to avoid criminal convictions that can raise red flags in your UK stay track record. 

There are various factors that need to be put into consideration to establish if you actually need to apply for settled or pre-settled status for you to work in the UK after Brexit. The analysis can be complicated, requiring guidance from an experienced legal expert. 

At Gulbenkian Andonian, we have qualified and experienced lawyers who can help with your EUSS pre-settled or settled eligibility analysis and the subsequent legal steps in the status application process. 

What if You were not in the UK Before 1st January 2021?

If you are interested in working in the UK but were working and living in an EU country (apart from Ireland and the UK) before 1st January (thus ineligible for pre-settled or settled status), you have to acquire a skilled worker visa. The visa allows you to travel to and perform eligible work in the UK with an approved employer. 

However, if your close relative (for instance, a parent or a sibling was a legal resident of the UK by 30th December 2020, you can apply to the free EU Settlement Scheme, which will allow you to work in the country. However, considering that the deadline for EU Settlement Scheme lapsed on 30th June 2021, you’ve to prove, with reasonable grounds, that you couldn’t submit your application on time. 

What are the Qualification Requirements for the Skilled Worker Visa?

You need to have the following for your skilled worker visa application to be successful:

  • You must be able to speak, read, write and understand English.
  • You must already have a valid job offer from an employer who’s approved by the Home Office. The job should be on the Home Office’s list of eligible occupations.
  • Your future employer must issue you with a ‘certificate of sponsorship.’ 
  • They must also tell you an expected salary, one that is approved and within the Home Office’s minimum salary scale.

If you have all of the above, you can make an application for a UK Skilled Worker Visa up to three months before your UK job starts. This is the date indicated on your certificate of sponsorship.  

Getting a UK to work visa or applying to the EU Settlement Scheme can be a complex process. Fortunately, with our UK immigration service, you rest assured of working with experienced and friendly solicitors who will make the entire process as effortless as possible. Reach us today for top-notch assistance. 

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    Neither Gulbenkian Andonian Solicitors ltd, nor their employees, agents, consultants or assignees, accept any liability based on the contents of written articles which are meant for guidance only and not as legal advice. We advise all readers to take professional advice before acting. If you would like to consult with a professional lawyer or solicitor to discuss your case, please do not hesitate to contact us directly.