The End of Free Movement


The End of Free Movement

Maintaining Residence Rights in a Post-Brexit World

On 31 January 2020, the United Kingdom (U.K.) officially left the European Union (EU) pursuant to the EU Withdrawal (“Brexit”) Agreement1. A so called “transition period” began on 1 February 2020 and will run until 31 December 2020 during which freedom of movement remains in place. In other words, U.K. nationals and their family members will still be able to study, live, and work in the EU as they currently do without additional authorization until the end of the transition period, at the earliest. The same applies to EU/EEA2 /Swiss nationals and their families in the U.K. Until the transition period ends, travel rules for the U.K. and EU will also remain the same.

The transition period offers time for the U.K. and EU to reach new agreements regulating the future U.K.-EU relationship as of 1 January 20213.

After the end of the transition period, freedom of movement within the EU will no longer be applicable to U.K. nationals, and the U.K. will introduce a new immigration system that will apply to all EU/EEA/Swiss and non-EU/EEA/Swiss nationals. Irish nationals, however, will not be subject to U.K. immigration restrictions, or vice versa, as the current Common Travel Area arrangements will remain in place.

This background focuses on the current approved measures regarding the residence rights of EU/EEA/Swiss nationals living in the U.K., and U.K. nationals living in one of the EU/EEA countries or Switzerland at the end of the transition period. Before the transition period ends, companies must prepare their business and employees in order to avoid disruptions in their work and residence status.

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1 With its withdrawal from the EU, the U.K. also left the European Economic Area (EEA), and as such, the three EEA States (Norway, Iceland, and Liechtenstein) have concluded their own Withdrawal Agreement with the U.K., often called the “EEA EFTA Separation Agreement.” Similarly, following the U.K.’s departure from the EU, the Agreement on the Free Movement of Persons (AFMP, also called FMOPA, Free Movement of Persons Agreement) with the EU will no longer apply between Switzerland and the U.K. Switzerland and the U.K. concluded a series of new bilateral agreements in different areas including residence rights (refer to the U.K.-Swiss Citizens’ Rights Agreement for more information).

2 The European Economic Area (EEA) includes EU countries and also Iceland, Liechtenstein, and Norway. It allows them to be part of the EU’s single market. Switzerland is not an EU or EEA member but is part of the single market

3 The U.K. and EU are currently negotiating the details of the future of their trading relationship. A Free trade Agreement (FTA) between the EU and the U.K. will likely include key issues such as short-term mobility of workers covering provisions that are easements designed to make sending employees from one country to another to perform services easier (the so-called “Mode IV”). Discussions regarding this within the EU and U.K. are still ongoing, in particular, expanding the scope of permissible activities a ‘business visitor’ can carry out, potentially permitting them to work without a work permit or prior approval, creating a positive impact on businesses.

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