Brexit will Impact Free Movement Between UK and EU

Brexit will impact the free movement of people between the United Kingdom (UK) and the European Union (EU). The UK’s upcoming exit from the EU is increasingly looking to occur as a no-deal Brexit scenario. Many EU nationals are no longer looking for work in the UK. Although EU nationals are declining in the UK workforce, over 3 million, or 5% of the UK’s total population of approximately 64 million are from Europe.

UK Government to End Free Movement with Brexit

The UK government has announced that free movement will end on October 31. EU nationals who currently reside in the UK might have some uncertainty about how this will impact them. Currently EU nationals do not require documentation to live and work in the UK, other than having a valid passport. Following Brexit, EU nationals will need proof of legal status in the country for a wide range of issues such as employment, finance, and health insurance. With no current documentation yet in place to prove legal status, EU nationals in the UK prior to Brexit may not be distinguishable from those who arrive post-Brexit.

UK Government Assures EU Nationals are Welcome to Stay After Free Movement Ends

The UK government has issued assurances that EU nationals and their families are welcome to stay in the UK and apply for the EU Settlement Scheme. The UK government is currently determining how EU nationals will provide proof of their current legal status in the UK following a no-deal Brexit that also ends free movement. It has also reaffirmed the Settled Status for EU nationals and their family members even as the deadline for Brexit has been extended to October 31. As a result, the government is urging EU nationals to apply for the EU Settlement Scheme.

How can EU Nationals in the UK Apply for the EU Settlement Scheme?

The UK government has created an online portal for EU nationals who want to apply for the EU Settlement Scheme. Applicants for the new Settled Status must prove their identity and nationality. They must also demonstrate proof they live in the UK, and must declare any criminal convictions on their records. Under a no-deal Brexit scenario and the end of free movement, the deadline for EU nationals to apply is December 31, 2020.

Acceptable documents to prove identity and nationality include:

  • Current passport
  • Identification card
  • Recent photograph

UK Government Assistance for EU Nationals and their Families with the EU Settlement Scheme

The UK government is offering a wide range of assistance and support to help EU nationals and their families with the EU Settlement Scheme and application process, including:

What Does This Mean?

The UK government is working to determine how to provide EU nationals with documentation of their legal status. Also, it has set October 31 as the date for Brexit and the end of free movement, either with a deal or with a no-deal Brexit scenario. However, the UK government has also reaffirmed that EU nationals and their family members are welcome to stay in the UK. It has also encouraged EU nationals and their families to submit applications for the EU Settlement Scheme.

Of particular importance, the UK government notes that for those who have not applied by the date free movement ends on October 31, they will be able to continue living and working as they do now. EU nationals will be able to obtain employment, benefits, and services using the same method they currently employ to confirm their status and entitlement to receive such benefits. EU nationals should verify that all of their current documents such as passports and identification cards are valid and have not expired.

What Should Employers do About Free Movement Ending with Brexit?

Employers in the UK that have EU nationals as employees should provide guidance on the UK government’s efforts to assist them with applications for the EU Settlement Scheme. The UK government notes that over one million people have already received Settled or Pre-Settled Status under the Scheme. Employers should encourage EU national employees to verify all of their current documents such as passports are valid and in order, as well as for their family members.


GMS’ team of global relocation experts has helped thousands of our clients understand how to respond effectively to changing government regulations especially as they apply to visa and immigration issues. Our team can help your company understand how to communicate important points such as the end of free movement that may impact your EU national employees and their family members. We can also assist your company in identifying helpful guidance to provide your EU national employees regarding steps to take under Brexit such as applying for the EU Settlement Scheme.

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Learn best practices from Global Mobility Solutions, the relocation industry and technology experts who are dedicated to keeping you informed and connected. Contact our experts online to discuss your company’s interest in learning how to communicate issues regarding Brexit and the end of free movement to your employees, or give us a call at 800.617.1904 or 480.922.0700 today.

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