Brexit - immigration

Last modified: 24 November 2020

Brexit is the term used to describe the United Kingdom's departure from the European Union (EU). How Brexit impacts you will depend on when you come/came to the UK.

The UK left the EU at 11pm (GMT) on 31 January 2020 on the basis of an agreement made between the UK and the EU  known as the Withdrawal Agreement. The UK made separate agreements with the EEA EFTA states (Norway, Iceland, Lichtenstein) and Switzerland.

The European Union (Withdrawal Agreement) Act 2020 contains all the provisions of these agreements including an agreement on citizens' rights during the 'transition period', The transition period is a period of time (which started as soon as the UK left the EU and will continue until  11pm GMT on 31 December 2020). During this time EU, EEA and Swiss citizens – and their relevant family members – can come to, or remain in, the UK on the same basis as before the UK left the EU (in line with European law).

You will need to apply for immigration permission by certain deadlines if you are:

  • in the UK currently and intending to stay beyond 31 December 2020; or 
  • coming to the UK before 31 December 2020 and intending to stay beyond 31 December 2020  
  • intending to come to the UK from 1 January 2021

Immigration permission for those in the UK or coming to the UK before 31 December 2020

EU, EEA and Swiss citizens and their eligible family members can still come to the UK (without requiring immigration permission, but in line with European law) until the end of the transition period (11pm on 31 December 2020) and apply for immigration permission in the UK under the UK government’s EU Settlement Scheme. Anyone who wishes to remain in the UK beyond the transition period will need to do this, or will need apply for immigration permission under another category of the immigration Rules. 

Immigration permission for those intending to come to the UK from 1 January 2021

There will be a new immigration system in place from 1 January 2021.

The Student route opened at 9 a.m. on 5 October 2020 for applications made outside the UK only from EEA nationals coming to the UK from 1 January 2021 to study a course which meets the requirements of the route. EEA citizens will only be able to make an immigration application as a Student from inside the UK from 11pm on 31 December 2020. See the information from the UK government about applying under the new student route.

See our latest updates for information about the visitor and short-term student route.

The grace period

The time between the end of the transition period (11pm 31 December 2020) and the EU settlement scheme application deadline (30 June 2021) is called the ‘grace period’. The UK government has regulations in place from 11pm on 31 December 2020 to deal with those who are eligible to apply under the EU settlement Scheme, but don’t have permission under the EU settlement scheme in this period. 

During the grace period you are considered to be lawfully residing in the UK if you are in the UK before the end of the transition period in accordance with current EU laws as implemented by the UK (The  EEA Regulations). This includes any temporary absences permitted by these Regulations. To be in the UK in accordance with the EEA Regulations you need to be ‘exercising a right to reside’ (be a ‘qualified person’). Therefore, if you are/have been in the UK for longer than three months and only as a student (ie not also as a worker), you need to have comprehensive sickness insurance.  

Travel documents for travel to the UK after the end of the transition period

See the Home Office information about travel documents which can and can't be used to travel to the UK 


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