Immigration and Brexit - an update

The Government has recently published updated guidance on transitional arrangements for EU nationals that will apply in the event of a ‘no-deal’ exit from the EU, including a No-Deal Readiness Report that was published on 8 October 2019. 

Key points for institutions and staff to be aware of are as follows:

  • EU Settlement Scheme – the UK will operate the EU Settlement Scheme for EU nationals and their family members who are resident in the UK by 11pm on 31 October 2019, whether there is a ‘deal’ or ‘no-deal’ Brexit.  This means that for these individuals the right of residence and ability to access benefits and public services should be preserved, irrespective of the outcome of the Brexit negotiations.  The deadline for applications under the Settlement Scheme will be 31 December 2020 (in a ‘no-deal’ scenario) or 30 June 2021 (in a ‘deal’ scenario).
  • Euro TLR - EU nationals who are not resident in the UK before 11pm on 31 October 2019 will continue to be able to enter the UK without needing a visa for the period 1 November 2019 until 31 December 2020.  However, a person who moves to the UK after a ‘no-deal’ exit and wishes to remain resident beyond 31 December 2020 will need to apply under the new European Temporary Leave to Remain scheme (Euro TLR).  It seems that the deadline for Euro TLR applications will be 31 December 2020, irrespective of the date when the person entered the UK.  Euro TLR will grant the holder permission to remain in the UK for 36 months with the ability to study and work.  At the end of this period, holders of Euro TLR will need to apply for further permission to remain in the UK under the new immigration system (expected to be implemented on a phased basis from January 2021).  Details of the new immigration rules, including any switching requirements for holders of Euro TLR, are not expected to be published for several months.  However, the Government has indicated that time spent in the UK with Euro TLR status will count towards residency requirements for future indefinite leave to remain / settlement applications.
  • Frontier workers – there have been developments in respect of EU nationals who live in another EU country, but regularly travel to the UK in order work for a UK employer (often referred to as frontier workers).  Many institutions have a number of staff in this category.  There should be no change to their ability to enter the UK and work until 31 December 2020.  From 1 January 2021, the Government will be implementing a new ‘frontier worker permit’ to enable these individuals to continue to enter the UK for work purposes, although very limited details have been published to date.

In a significant and welcome change to the Immigration Rules that apply to non-European nationals, with effect from 6 October 2019 PhD SOC Code roles (which include most academic and research roles) were removed from the Tier 2 (General) restricted category.  This means that institutions should use an unrestricted certificate of sponsorship for PhD SOC Code roles, potentially reducing the timeline for sponsoring a person in the Tier 2 (General) category by up to around a month.   

The Government has also signalled its intention to implement a new ‘fast track’ immigration route for leading scientists - both early career and eminent individuals.  The proposal appears to be to expand the Tier 1 category to cover roles in the fields of science, technology, engineering and mathematics.  It would be similar to arrangements in some other countries, notably Australia.  We are awaiting further details and the changes may be implemented in late 2019 or early 2020.  Depending on the detailed requirements, Tier 1 may become the preferred immigration category for many STEM roles at HEIs.  It would avoid sponsor compliance obligations for institutions, provide individuals with more flexibility, and carry an accelerated route to settlement.

These developments come alongside the announcement covered here that eligible international students will be entitled to work (or look for work) for two years after completing their undergraduate studies in the UK. 


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