UK visas and migration

The UK is an open and tolerant country that recognises the valuable contribution migrants make to our society. We welcome those with the skills and expertise to contribute to our nation.

Last updated 16 May 2019

EU Exit: what’s changed

Employing EU, EEA and Swiss citizens if the UK leaves the EU with a deal

There will be no change to the right to work of EU, EEA and Swiss citizens arriving in the UK before 1 January 2021 if the UK leaves the EU with a deal. Those arriving in the UK before 31 December 2020 will have until 30 June 2021 to apply to the EU Settlement Scheme to ensure they continue to have lawful status in the UK. There is no application fee.

Those arriving in the UK on or after 1 January 2021 will need to apply to the Home Office for status under the new immigration system.

Employing EU, EEA and Swiss citizens if the UK leaves the EU without a deal

EU, EEA and Swiss citizens and their family members who enter the UK before the UK leaves the EU will be able to apply to the EU Settlement Scheme to live and work in the UK. The application deadline will be 31 December 2020 and there will be no application fee.

After the UK leaves the EU, the free movement of people will end but there will be a transition period until 1 January 2021. EU, EEA and Swiss citizens arriving for the first time in the UK during this period will be able to work for 3 months or less at a time without needing to apply for status.

EU, EEA and Swiss citizens who want to work in the UK for longer than 3 months during this period will need to apply for European temporary leave to remain. They’ll then be able to live and work in the UK for 36 months from the date their leave is granted.

Their non-EU, non-EEA or non-Swiss close family members will also be eligible to apply for European temporary leave to remain. Once they’ve been granted European temporary leave to remain, they’ll also be able to work in the UK.

If EU, EEA and Swiss citizens want to stay in the UK for more than 36 months, they will need to apply for an immigration status under the new immigration system, which will come into effect from 1 January 2021. Those who do not qualify will need to leave the UK when their European temporary leave to remain expires.

Irish citizens will continue to have the right to work in the UK under Common Travel Area arrangements.

What you need to do as an employer

You can get detailed guidance on employing EU, EEA and Swiss citizens after we leave the EU.

You should continue to conduct right to work checks on all prospective employees.

You can find out how to carry out right to work checks, why you need to do them, and which documents you can use in the right to work checks employer’s guide.

Check an applicant’s right to work

New guidance on how to carry out right to work checks from 1 January 2021 will be issued in due course.

Until then employers do not need to check that new EEA and Swiss employees have status under the EU Settlement Scheme or European temporary leave to remain or differentiate between those who arrived before or after the UK left the EU.

Employers will not need to retrospectively check the status of EU, EEA or Swiss employees or their family members who began employment before 1 January 2021.

You can share information with your employees about the EU Settlement Scheme using our toolkit.

Non-EU citizens with a right to work in the UK

EU Exit does not affect the status of non-EU nationals who already have a right to work in the UK.

Non-EU citizens coming to the UK to work, study or invest

If you’re a non-EU national and you’re not a dependant of an EU citizen, you will need to apply to come to the UK to study, work, visit or join family.

You can work in the UK on a short or long-term basis with a visa.

There are many types of work visa. The visa you need depends on:

  • your skills and qualifications
  • if you have a job offer and sponsorship
  • if you want to bring your family with you
  • what you’ll be doing - for example sporting, charitable or religious work

You can also invest money in the UK with an investor visa. You can set up a business with a start-up visa or innovator visa.

Use our visas and immigration tool to check if you need a visa.

Immigration to the UK from 1 January 2021

The immigration white paper , published on 19 December 2018, sets out the government’s vision for the UK’s future skills-based immigration system.

It outlines the foundation for a single immigration system that focuses on:

  • skills and talent
  • welcoming talented and hardworking individuals who will support the UK’s dynamic economy
  • enabling businesses and employers to continue to compete on the world stage

The white paper provides a platform for further discussion and the government has launched an extensive programme of targeted engagement across the UK, and with our EU and international partners, to capture views and ensure that we design a future system that is efficient and able to respond to users’ needs.

The future immigration system will start to operate from 1 January 2021.

Explore the topic

Employing EEA and Swiss citizens and their family members after Brexit

EU Settlement Scheme: a guide for employers

Visas for entrepreneurs and investors

Employing people in the UK