EU border

FFS explains: Immigration and emigration after Brexit

The end of the Brexit transition period means new rules will be in place for Scots living in the EU, and for EU citizens residing in Scotland. 

Ferret Fact Service looked at changes to rules and how they will affect those looking to move between the European Union. 

What is the situation for Scots living in the EU right now?

Those who moved to live in an EU country before 1 January 2021 will continue to have broadly similar rights to work, study and use public services in the country they reside, as long as they meet residence conditions. 

Family members living with them also have the right to remain in the country. 

However, people living in EU, European Economic Area (EU plus Iceland, Liechtenstein and Norway) or Switzerland, may now need to apply for new residence status to secure their rights.

There are separate procedures for different EU countries, but commonly people will have to apply for a new residence permit within a year from 1 January 2020 or face a fine. The EU withdrawal agreement protects your right to remain in the country. 

The ability to work and travel in the Common Travel Area (the UK, Jersey, Guernsey, the Isle of and Ireland) is unaffected by Brexit.

What about EU citizens currently living in the UK?

The status of EU, EEA and Swiss citizens living in the UK is changing after 30 June 2021.

Those who are living in the UK, but hail from EU countries, will have to apply for settled or pre-settled status by that date under the EU settlement scheme.

EU, European Economic Area and Swiss citizens can remain in the UK under the scheme. But they have to provide evidence of their identity and continued residency to achieve either pre-settled or settled status.

Settled status allows people to remain in the UK indefinitely. It also means they can potentially apply for British citizenship. It is usually available for those who have lived in the UK for a continuous five-year period.

Five years’ continuous residence means that a person has been in the UK for at least six months of the year for five years in a row, although exceptions do apply. 

Pre-settled status is usually given to those who have not lived in the UK for five years consecutively. It allows a person to stay in the UK for five years from the date their pre-settled status is granted, then apply for settled status. 

Concerns were raised about the proportion of people who were given pre-settled instead of settled status, because they struggled to prove their continuous residence.

The latest figures up to the end of November 2020 show 55 per cent of applicants had received settled status, with 43 per cent pre-settled. 

How easy is it to move to the EU now the transition period is over?

Now the transition period has ended, the right to work and live in an EU country without a visa is no longer in place. 

Those wanting to live and work in an EU country must apply via that country’s existing immigration rules. It is important to make sure that any professional qualifications in the UK are recognised where you plan to work.

Highly-qualified workers from the UK wanting to work in an EU country may be able to get an EU Blue Card

This gives workers from outside the EU the right to live and work in an EU country, if they have professional qualifications such as a university degree, and have secured an employment contract, or job offer with a comparably high salary.

For countries which are part of the Schengen agreement, which allows free travel between its members, UK citizens can travel for up to 90 days in any 180-day period without a visa. To move for a longer period and work, a visa or work permit will be required.

A job offer is likely to be required before being given the right to move, and the UK Government  advises people planning to move to check with the relevant UK embassy. 

What about people moving to the UK from the EU?

Apart from Irish citizens, the same basic rules now apply for anyone who wants to move to the UK to live, work or study. The free movement of citizens from the EU, EEA and Switzerland has ended. 

The UK has introduced a points-based system, which anyone who wants to come to the UK to live must apply through. 

One route is for so-called ‘skilled workers’ to receive a job offer from a sponsor employer, that is above a certain government-assessed skill level. They will be required to speak English and be paid above a salary threshold.

A system of points is then applied to each application based on various criteria including salary, job offer, education level, and area of work. 

A ‘global talent scheme’ visa has also been launched which is open to those from EU, EEA and Switzerland. It allows some “highly-skilled scientists and researchers” in academia or research, arts and culture or digital technology to come to the UK without a job offer in place. 

Seasonal workers can apply for a visa to work in the UK for up to six months, providing they have a work sponsor and meet the other eligibility requirements.

The UK Government announced 30,000 seasonal worker visas will be available for 2021.

What about refugees?

Those claiming asylum in the UK will still be able to do so, but some rules governing asylum will change. 

The UK’s responsibility towards those seeking asylum comes from the 1951 United Nations Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees, which UK has agreed to.

Asylum applications are assessed based on the perceived validity of claims, using criteria set out in the 1951 convention.

But the Dublin regulation, which allows EU states to return asylum seekers to a country they have passed through, no longer applies in the UK. The regulation means EU member states can ask another EU country to take responsibility for the asylum claim, usually the EU country the person first arrived in. 

The regulation also gives access to a database which facilitates the transfer of asylum seekers by identifying where they first arrived in the EU. The UK no longer has access to this system.

Now the UK will have to develop a bespoke arrangement with the EU, but such an agreement has not yet been signed off. 

This means family reunions are likely to become more difficult, meaning those who claim asylum in another member state may find it harder to join family members already living in the UK. 

It also makes it harder for unaccompanied children to enter the UK to reunite with a parent, sibling or other relative.

Ferret Fact Service (FFS) is a non-partisan fact checker, and signatory to the International Fact-Checking Network fact-checkers’ code of principles.

All the sources used in our checks are publicly available and the FFS fact-checking methodology can be viewed here.

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