A document drafted by the U.K. Home Office indicates how the government envisions managing and limiting EU migration after Brexit. The 82-page document was leaked and published in The Guardian newspaper Tuesday.

As previously outlined in a U.K. proposal paper, a transition period of two to three years after Brexit would provide a phased introduction of immigration rules for EU nationals who would need to register during the transition. Following the transition period, high-skilled EU nationals would be able to apply for residence permits valid for three to five years; low-skilled EU nationals could apply for residence permits valid for up to two years.

Key points:

Irish citizens

  • Ireland would not be subject to registration or other new immigration rules for EU nationals, as the U.K. will work to preserve the current status of U.K. and Irish nationals under the Common Travel Area arrangements.

EU nationals

  • A transition phase would start on Brexit day and run “at least two years” to avoid a cliff edge and allow employers and EU nationals to transition to new rules. EU nationals would be subject to substantially the same rules as now, but would need to register with the Home Office. EU nationals traveling to the U.K. would eventually be required to show a passport instead of a national ID – the U.K. would give notice before implementing this change, but it could begin to require passports on Brexit day.
  • EU nationals arriving during the transition period would be given “deemed” permission to stay for a period to be determined (likely three to six months) after which they would need to apply for a residence permit from the Home Office by demonstrating a clean criminal record, a job offer or employment, and meet an earning threshold. Job seekers would not be granted residence permits. The government has not decided the duration of the residence permits, but is considering three to five years for high-skilled workers and two years for low-skilled workers, in line with current Tier 2 and Tier 5 categories for non-EEA nationals.
  • Similar to the current rules for the Tier 2 immigration route for non-EEA nationals, settlement in the U.K. would be available for high-skilled EU nationals and their families. An eligibility period would start on the date of issuances of the residence permit.

UK employers

  • As under current rules, U.K. employers would be required to conduct right-to-work checks of EU nationals, but eventually the only acceptable document would be a passport or a Home Office biometric residence permit.
  • Labor market testing is under consideration to ensure that companies are hiring U.K. resident labor whenever available.
  • A salary threshold is also being considered to limit low-skilled EU workers. This is in line with current Tier 2 work permit rules for non-EEA nationals.

Non-EU family members

  • Non-EU national family members of EU nationals who arrived before Brexit could apply for settled status or temporary stay so they can accumulate five years towards settlement.
  • Non-EU family members whose sponsor arrived after a specified cutoff date would be able to apply for temporary leave to remain alongside the sponsor so they can stay during the transition period.
  • After the transition, non EU family members would not be granted “deemed” permission to enter, and must apply for a leave to remain under the new rules.
  • Under a future U.K. immigration system, extended non-EU family members would not be eligible to enter or remain in the UK. The definition of a family member will fall in line with the rules affecting British citizens’ families.

Digital systems

  • The U.K. government envisions a digital residence permit system to eventually replace physical permits.
  • An online visa-waiver system similar to the U.S. Electronic System for Travel Authorization (ESTA) is under consideration for EU nationals.

BAL Analysis: The document largely mirrors the negotiating proposal the U.K. set out June 26, but provides greater detail. The greatest impact would be on low-skilled EU migrants whose numbers would be more strictly limited and would not have a path to settlement, while high-skilled EU nationals in occupations aligned with the Tier 2 occupations for non-EU nationals would enjoy some flexibility and a path toward settlement after three to five years.

This alert has been provided by the BAL Global Practice group in the United Kingdom. For additional information, please contact


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