Brexit: a guide for EU workers in the UK after January 2021

December 1, 2020


Source: Jo Panuwat D/Shutterstock

What should you know about working in the UK after Brexit?

The UK formally left the EU on Friday 31 January 2020 and is undergoing a transition period before it is finalized.

For EU professionals working in the UK, or planning to move there, we have outlined some key areas to be aware of.

If you are unsure about what to do next, it is highly recommended that you visit the website for advice. They have a transition checker to help you assess your priorities.

What is the essential BrexitICON-MISC-CalendarJan1-GRADIENT
information you need to know?

New rules for businesses and citizens will be imposed on 1st January 2021 when the transition period ends.

 If you are an EU citizen working in the UK before the 31st Dec 2020, you need to have applied for residency or settled status before 30th June 2021 to avoid any immigration concerns beyond June 2021.

Key Brexit terms

The Withdrawal Agreement

On 17 October 2019, a revised Withdrawal Agreement and Political Declaration was agreed at European Council. The agreement establishes the terms for the UK withdrawal from the EU and provides information on citizens’ rights.

The transition period

The Withdrawal Agreement outlines a time-limited transition period before the changes relating to Brexit formally take place. This period ends on 1st January 2021.

Living and working in the UK as an EU Citizen after January 2021?


Source: AP Chanel/Shutterstock

1. Settled vs. pre-settled status ICON-MISC-UKcheckmarkStatus-GRADIENT

If you have lived in the UK for at least five years, you are eligible for ‘settled status’. This entitles you to live permanently in the UK and later apply for UK citizenship.

If you have lived in the UK for less than five years, you are eligible for ‘pre-settled status’ and can apply for settled status after five years of residence.

2.Applying to the EU Settlement Scheme ICON-MISC-DocHouseCheck-GRADIENT

EU citizens, and their non-EU family members need to apply for the EU Settlement Scheme (EUSS) to retain UK residence rights. It is free to apply.

For Irish citizens, the requirement to apply for settled status is voluntary.

3. How to apply for settled status ICON-MISC-SmartPhoneHand-GRADIENT

You will need proof of your identity and residence in the UK. Proof of identity could include a valid EU, EEA or Swiss passport, biometric ID card or biometric residence permit.

Applications can be completed by:

  • The EU Exit: ID Document Check App enables you to scan and submit your documents and a photo using an Android or iPhone 7 or above
  • Sending your documents by post.

*Please note that there may be delays in returning documents sent by post. Be mindful of this if you will need your documents for a specific date, such as a holiday or business trip.

If your application is successful, you will be emailed a letter to confirm your settled or pre-settled status. You can also view or prove your immigration status online.

More information about applying for EUSS is available here.

4. Eligibility criteria ICON-MISC-PersonCheckStatus-GRADIENT

To apply for settled status, you usually need to have lived in the UK, the Channel Islands, or the Isle of Man for at least 6 months in any 12-month period for 5 years in a row.

EU, EEA, or Swiss citizens will need to have established residence in the UK by 31 December 2020. Application must for EUSS must be submitted by the end of June 2021.

It is possible to apply from abroad if you lived in the UK for at least five years and have been absent for less than five years since then.

Applicants must also meet ‘suitability’ criteria which considers their personal conduct, criminal record, and honesty in the application.

5. Your rights with settled or pre-settled ICON-MISC-TravelPlaneEUstars-GRADIENT

You can still move to a new country within the EU up until 31st December 2020. After that date, you will have until 30th June 2021 to apply for residence status if you wish to stay.

6. Which EU Citizens may be unaware of ICON-MISC-WarningTriangle-GRADIENT
their rights after Brexit?

The Migration Observatory at University of Oxford highlighted several groups that are at risk of missing out on applying for settled status in the UK.

If you, or your family members were resident in the UK before 31st December and fall into the below categories, you should ensure you apply before 30 June 2021.

  • Very long-term residents, who might think that they do not need to apply. This includes the estimated 139,000 non-Irish EU citizens who arrived more than 30 years previously.
  • People with permanent residence that are not yet UK citizens.
  • Children of EU citizens who mistakenly believe that their UK-born children are automatically UK citizens and do not apply on their behalf.
  • People who have been rejected for permanent residency or who were previously ineligible. Although they may believe they are ineligible, the criteria to obtain status under the EUSS has been made less restrictive.
  • People with criminal records or have been removed in the past might be reluctant to apply due to fear of being refused status or being unaware of the scheme.
  • People without good social networks might be unaware of the EUSS or likely to miss the deadline to apply.
  • EU citizens born outside the EU could be unaware of the EUSS and that they need to apply.
  • People who are expecting to return home may believe that they do not need to apply because they are expecting to return home before 30 June 2021.
  • People lacking identity evidence may have difficulty demonstrating their nationality.
  • People lacking evidence of their relationship to a qualifying EU citizen. Non-EU family members need to show that they are in a relationship with a qualifying person, which makes the burden of proof higher for this group.
  • People who have arrived shortly before the cut-off date for eligibility. People who arrive just before the cut-off date (31 December 2020) may not have bank accounts, leases, or potentially verifiable informal activity such as membership of clubs or contracts for services. Nonetheless, a used travel ticket confirming travel to the UK might still be considered valid evidence to show eligibility to the scheme.


Unsure what to do next?

It is highly recommended that you seek the latest government advice by visiting the European Union website

If you are you an Airswift contractor or client and have specific questions about your situation, you can contact your relevant service consultant.

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This post was written by: Craig Ferguson, Senior Client Services Manager - Europe & Africa