In concomitant to the changes to the EU free movement law resulting from the referendum vote to leave the EU on 23 June 2016, a complete overhaul of the UK immigration system is on the horizon.
What has changed and what next?
EEA nationals resident in the UK prior to the exit date
EEA (includes EU countries, Iceland, Liechtenstein and Norway) and Swiss nationals and their family members resident in the UK before the exit date of 31 October 2019, are eligible to apply to the EU Settlement scheme to be granted permanent or temporary status to live, work and study in the UK. Permanent status, also known as Indefinite Leave to remain is referred to as ‘Settled status’ and temporary status, also known as limited leave to remain is referred to as ‘Pre-settled status’.
Individuals who have been resident in the UK for five years will be eligible for Settled status and those who have been resident for less than five years will be eligible for Pre-settled status. This is subject to the application being made before 31 December 2020 and proving residency in the UK prior to 31 October 2019.
EEA nationals arriving post-exit date
EEA nationals and their family members, who arrive after the exit day, can remain in the UK until 31 December 2020. If, however, they wish to stay in the UK beyond 31 December 2020, they would have to apply for a new immigration status called European Temporary Leave to Remain or under the new immigration system.
European Temporary Leave to remain (‘Euro TLR’) potentially effective after the exit date and prior to 31 December 2020
The Euro TLR applications will have to be made after arrival in the UK. They will be free. The maximum time permitted under Euro TLR will be 36 months. This status will not be extendible beyond 36 months. Those who intend to continue to live in the UK will have to apply under the new immigration system or leave the UK. The upshot of this scheme is that the time spent in the UK with Euro TLR status will count towards settlement if the holder of the leave qualifies for settlement under the new immigration system.
New Immigration system effective 1st January 2021
In Boris Johnson’s first statement to Parliament as the new Prime Minister on 25th July, he declared that one of his priorities was to review the current immigration system and look to introduce an ‘Australian style’ points-based system after Brexit.
As a result, Migration Advisory Committee (MAC’) has been commissioned to research and provide evidence-based recommendations on how the ‘Australian-style’ system might work in the UK as well as to probe potential future salary thresholds and the range at which they could be set. The MAC is expected to produce its final report and recommendations in January 2020.
The UK’s current points-based system, first introduced in February 2008 under the then Labour government was also heralded as based on the Australian system. It remains to be seen how new the new immigration system will be to the current one other than that it will be applicable to individuals of all nationalities alike. There are no details of the new immigration system published at the date of writing and we do not know what the new system will look like in 2021. It seems unlikely that the rules will be substantially different from the current rules. Conceivably, it will be a reintroduction of the genuine points-based system grounded in objectivity, which the current system has been deprived of.
Pertaining to the salary threshold level, whilst there is optimism that threshold will be substantially lowered from £30,000, there is also scope for introduction of exemptions from salary thresholds for instance due to jobs being in the shortage occupation list, or having regional variations.
The definitive immigration system of the future is yet unknown, but what is known is that the immigration system is changing, come what may.