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Impact on Immigration (Brexit): What happens after 31st January 2020?

The withdrawal agreement has now become law and is known as the European Union (Withdrawal Agreement) Act 2020. The Act provides ratification for the Withdrawal Agreement to allow the UK to leave the EU at 11PM on 31 January 2020 and gives effect to a transition period which will end on 31 December 2020.

So, what happens after the 31st of January 2020, and what will this mean for immigration law in the UK?

As the transition period does not expire until the 31st of December 2020 (unless extended), there will be little to no change. The UK has already stated that it does not intend on seeking an extension to the transition period, and in any event, should an extension be required, this would need to be requested by June 2020. The purpose of this agreement is to allow the UK to negotiate its ‘future trade deal’ with the EU.

During this period the rights of EU nationals in the UK, and those of UK nationals in Europe remain broadly the same. However, both EU nationals and UK nationals (in the EU) will have to apply to remain beyond 31 December 2020.

We expect the following changes after 31 December 2020:

Visit visas

The EU’s approach to a post-Brexit arrangement is that of reciprocity. In respect of visit visas, the view is that short-term visits should not require a visa. However, we do expect the European Travel Information and Authorisation System (ETIAS) to become a requirement for all third-country nationals, which will include UK citizens from next year.


The ETIAS will be an EU-wide authorisation system similar to the US ESTA. This means that travellers who currently do not require a visa to the EU will have to seek authorisation. The process is anticipated to be straightforward and will require a payment of €7. If granted, the ETIAS will be valid for 3 years (or until the expiry date of the passport).

Monica Atwal

Managing Partner

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+44 118 960 4605

So, what happens after the 31st of January 2020, and what will this mean for immigration law in the UK?

A unified immigration system

We expect a unified immigration system to be the headline news for 2021 for all non-UK nationals. Importantly, EU nationals will also be subject to this regime after the transition agreement.

This new system is expected to be a hybrid of the points-based system and non-points-based routes. The first addition to this new system is expected as soon as the 20th February, which will be the Global Talent route (taking over from the Tier 1 Exceptional Talent visa)

The Immigration bill for unified system is expected in March, and we expect this to largely follow the recommendations of the Migration Advisory Committee (MAC) of January 2020.

EU Settlement Scheme

EU nationals already resident in the UK, and those who become resident by 31 December 2020 will be able to apply under the EU Settlement Scheme for either Settled Status (if they have been resident for 5 years) or Pre-Settled Status (residence of less than 5 years).

The scheme will also form part of the recruitment strategy of businesses who intend on recruiting from the EU in 2020.

Whilst the application under this scheme is straightforward, and nearly 2.7 million applications have been made (this does not reflect the number of individuals who have made this application – as a single applicant can apply more than once), there continues to be reluctance among some EU national employees to apply due to varying reasons.

EU Temporary Leave to Remain (or Euro TLR)

It is unclear whether Euro TLR will be rolled out, as it was also meant to be an interim immigration status until the new immigration system was rolled out.

About this article

This information is for guidance purposes only and should not be regarded as a substitute for taking legal advice. Please refer to the full General Notices on our website.

Monica Atwal

Managing Partner

View profile

+44 118 960 4605

About this article

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