As we already know, the infamous Brexit (Britain’s exit from the European Union) finally came about on 31st January 2020. The EU withdrawal agreement allowed for the ‘free movement’ rights of EU/EEA and Swiss nationals to continue until the end of the transition period i.e. 31st December 2020. 1st January 2021 was termed as the ‘Implementation day’; this means that, starting 1st January 2021, all EU/EEA and Swiss nationals who intend to relocate to the UK to work or study would have to apply will have to apply for valid visas under the UK immigration routes, just like non-EEA nationals have been doing all along.
The troubling question now is: ‘What of the EU/EEA and Swiss nationals who entered the UK in exercise of their EU treaty rights before 31st December 2020?’
Those EEA nationals who entered the UK by or before 31st December 2020, in exercise of their treaty rights, have until 30th June 2021 to apply for and be granted a legal status under the EU Settlement Scheme, as per the Citizens’ Rights (Application Deadline and Temporary Protection) (EU Exit) Regulations 2020. This six month period from 1st January to 30th June 2021 is called the ‘EU grace period’.
During this ‘EU grace period’ EEA nationals and their family members must apply for a status under the EU Settlement Scheme for either the ‘pre-settled’ or ‘settled’ status, depending on the length of their stay in the UK. The legal residence rights of EEA nationals and their family members, who are legally resident in the UK, would be protected during this grace period.
What happens if EEA nationals and their family members do not have a status under the EU Settlement Scheme by 30th June 2021?
The ‘Implementation day’ would bring with it, hostile environment for those EEA nationals and their family members who do not have a legal status under the EU Settlement Scheme. In simple terms they would have the same plight as undocumented (illegal) migrants.
What does hostile environment mean?
Hostile environment (in the immigration terms) means:
- lack of a legal right to reside
- lack of a right to work
- denial of access to health care, housing and public services or benefits
EEA nationals and their family members (though you may have been settled in the UK for decades) are well advised to apply for a status under the EU Settlement Scheme by 30th June 2021. No extension on this deadline has been announced by the Home Office till date and despite the disruption caused by the Covid-19 pandemic, this is unlikely to change.
The SmartMove2UK provides seamless immigration advice, ensuring that the applicant meets all the requirements set out under the EU Regulations. Our immigration experts have helped numerous EEA nationals and their EEA national family members with their EU Settlement Scheme applications. Should you require help with your visa applications, you can contact our expert.