EU Citizens in the UK: What's Changed?

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With Brexit, a lot of uncertainty about the status of EU citizens in the UK has caused a lot of stress for people across the country. With waiting for a decision on the EU settlement scheme and being unsure about your rights. In this guide, we’ll walk you through everything that has changed for EU citizens in the UK to put your mind at ease!

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EU Citizens in the UK and Brexit

There’s a lot of confusing information surrounding what the situation is for EU citizens in the UK with Brexit, particularly when it comes to settling in the UK. There was even a lot of talk about whether Brits and EU citizens could go to each other’s countries anymore! However, with the agreement that was reached between the EU and the UK in 2020, this is not the case.

What Happened with Brexit?

Brexit means that the UK has left the European Union and also the single market. In practice, this means that the rights that EU citizens share by being member states of the European Union no longer apply to the UK.

The rights that ended were:

  1. Freedom of movement
  2. Freedom to settle
  3. Freedom of labour

What these rights mean is that anyone can go and live, work, or retire in another EU country without facing any visa restrictions. Before, if you were born in Portugal, you could come to the UK and find employment and a place to live with the same rights as British citizens. Now, if you are coming from the EU, EEA or Switzerland, you’ll need to get a visa in order to work in the UK.

What is the EEA? The EEA is the European Economic Area, or sometimes referred to as the Single Market. It is a free-trade area that includes both European Union members and EFTA members (Norway, Iceland, Switzerland, and Liechtenstein). Within the EEA, there is free movement of labour but greater restrictions on residence. The UK left the EEA along with leaving the EU.

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What About Irish Citizens?

Irish citizens have always been able to live, work and settle in the UK without any restrictions ever since Ireland’s independence. This is because both the UK and Ireland belong to the Common Travel Area (CTA) which predates the European Union.

The CTA allows the freedom of movement for citizens of the UK, the Isle of Mann, the Channel Islands and the Republic of Ireland. Since the UK and Ireland joined the EU, the Common Travel Area was left to one side, but it still important and allows Brits and Irish to do the following in each other’s countries without restrictions:

  • Move and settle whether they wish
  • Work without visa restrictions
  • Vote in elections

The Common Travel Area is still in force and so Irish citizens, even though they are citizens of the EU as well, can still enjoy these rights in the UK.


Can EU Citizens Still Move to the UK?

EU citizens are still able to come and live in the UK but the process is a little different from before. In the past, an EU citizen could simply buy a plane or train ticket and apply for a job in the UK. Since Brexit came into effect, you’ll need to prove a job offer before you come to live.

Do EU Citizens Need a Visa To Visit the UK?

EU citizens do not need a visa if they are visiting the UK for less than 6 months. If you’re just coming for a holiday or to visit friends and family, you can just come on your passport and will not need a Standard Visitors Visa. However, if you have a criminal record, it might be a good idea to apply for one just to be safe.

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Can EU Citizens Work in the UK After Brexit?

The UK government has now put in place a points-based system for both EU citizens and people from other countries who want to come to work and live in the UK. The point-based system awards a number of points to certain qualities of your Skilled Worker visa application and you need a minimum of 70 points in order to get the right to work.

The mandatory requirements are:

  • Job offer from a licensed company
  • Job at your relevant skill level
  • English at B1 level

These requirements combined will get you 50 points so you will need another 20 in order to get a visa to work in the UK. Once you have your visa, you can stay in the UK for up to 5 years and you’ll have the right to rent and live without any legal problems.

Are EU Citizens Able To Study in the UK?

Since the UK has left the European Union, the UK no longer participates in the Erasmus scheme for students in the member states. The UK also decided not to participate in the Erasmus+ scheme for third countries of the EU.

However, you can still come to study in the UK if you want to by getting a Student visa. You’ll need to apply to your chosen university through the UCAS and then provide references from your teachers.

Read More About UK Visas!


Can EU Citizens Remain in the UK After Brexit?

EU citizens in the UK who have been living here since before Brexit won’t see any changes in their rights as an EU national living in the UK. For people who have been here since before 31 December 2020, the UK government has set up the EU Settlement Scheme so people can register themselves and continue living in the UK without problem.

What Is the EU Settlement Scheme?

There are still an estimated 3.4 million EU nationals living in the UK and the EU Settlement Scheme was put in place to confirm the legal status in the UK. You’ll qualify for the scheme if you meet the following criteria:

  1. Living in the UK before 31 December 2020
  2. An EU Norwegian, Icelandic, Liechtensteiner or Swiss citizen
  3. Be a family member of an EU Norwegian, Icelandic, Liechtensteiner or Swiss citizen

In order to apply for the EU Settlement Scheme, you’ll need to have either:

  • A valid passport from an EU country
  • A biometric residence card (or permit)

You can still use an expired passport or card if you haven’t had time to get them renewed.

Check Out Our EU Settlement Guide!

How Long Can I Stay in the UK?

Once you’ve completed your EU Settlement Scheme process, you’ll then be given either pre-settled or settled status depending on how long you’ve lived in the UK already:

  1. Pre-Settled Status
    Pre-settled status is given to EU citizens in the UK who have resided in the country less than 5 years. You’ll be given a further 5 years to live in the UK until your visa expires at which time you’ll be able to apply for settled status.
  2. Settled Status
    With settled status, you have permanent residency and there’s no limit on how long you can stay in the UK. After you’ve been given settled status, you can apply for British nationality after 12 months.

Learn More in Our Settled Status Guide!

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What Rights Do EU Citizens Have in the UK?

If you’ve sorted out your status on the EU settlement scheme, you will enjoy the same rights that you’ve had during your time before Brexit came into effect. However, if you’ve moved on a Skilled Worker visa, it is slightly different.

Can EU Citizens Claim Benefits in the UK?

If you have been an EU citizen in the UK for a while and you have either pre-settled or settled status on the EU Settlement Scheme, you’ll still be able to claim benefits and use the NHS. If you’re on a Skilled Worker visa, however, you won't be able to claim benefits and you’ll need to pay the healthcare surcharge.

What is the healthcare surcharge? You’ll need to pay the immigration healthcare surcharge for your time in the UK if you have a Skilled Worker visa. This is a fee that you have to pay for each year of your time in the UK to cover the costs of healthcare and to use the NHS.

The standard amount you’ll have to pay is around £624 for each year. This means if you are staying on a 5 year Skilled Worker Visa, you will need to pay £3,120 in order to start using the NHS.


Can EU Citizens Vote in UK General Elections?

EU citizens in the UK cannot vote in general elections as only those with British citizenship are eligible to vote in parliamentary elections. However, EU citizens do have the right to vote as legal residents for number of local elections:

  • Mayoral elections
  • Police commissioners
  • Local council
  • Scottish and Welsh Parliaments
  • Northern Ireland Assembly

If you are an Irish citizen, you can vote in all elections in the UK if you are a resident.

Can EU Citizens in the UK Apply for Citizenship?

UK citizenship is an option available for many residents in the UK who have lived there for 5 years or more. You will usually need to complete both a language test and the Life in the UK Test in order to successfully obtain your British citizenship.


How Do I Have To Stay for British Citizenship?

You will need to have lived and worked in the UK for at least 5 years and have applied for Indefinite Leave to Remain (ILR). ILR is exactly the same as settled status for those on the EU Settlement Scheme. After you’ve managed to get ILR, you’ll need to wait a further 12 months before you can apply for citizenship.

What Tests Do I Need for UK Citizenship?

You will need to complete a couple of tests to demonstrate that you are fit to be a British citizen by knowing details about the language, culture and political system. These tests will allow you to apply for UK citizenship and be able to later apply for a British passport.

  1. Proof of English Knowledge
    You’ll need to complete an English test to prove that you are able to use the language competently. You’ll normally need to achieve a B1 level to prove that you have the necessary knowledge to be able to apply for UK citizenship.
  2. Life in the UK Test
    In addition to the English test, you’ll need to complete a Life in the UK test to prove that you know about British culture and politics. You have to book this test at least 3 days in advance and it costs £50.

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