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The UK intends to end free movement of EEA citizens into the UK as it leaves the European Union. The Government is taking this opportunity to overhaul the UK’s immigration system. The UK’s immigration regime is going to change regardless of whether the UK agrees a deal with the EU or has a no-deal Brexit.

Before the new system is implemented there will be a time of transition, commencing after exit day, under both the Withdrawal Agreement or a no-deal Brexit. Free movement in the UK will essentially continue during transition in both a deal or no deal scenario.

After transition, everyone who comes to the UK under the future immigration system, regardless of whether they are from the EU, will be subject to the UK’s immigration requirements. Under proposals for the future immigration system, citizens from the EU and the EEA will require a visa in most cases except short stays and tourism.

EU and EEA citizens who are granted status under the EU Settlement Scheme due to residence in the UK prior to Brexit will also be subject to the UK’s immigration regime. This is because settled and pre-settled status are set out in UK domestic law via the immigration rules. However, the rights and benefits under the EUSS broadly mirror EU law rights. The position for arrivals under the future immigration system will be different, as EU and EEA citizens will be brought under the UK’s stricter immigration policies.

The development of a new, post-Brexit immigration system constitutes the biggest change to UK immigration law since the UK acceded to the European Economic Community on 1 January 1973, 46 years ago. The Government has been consulting on these changes by commissioning reviews by the Migration Advisory Committee.

According to the Government they intend to implement the future immigration system from 1 January 2021.

At time of writing most of the available information on the system are proposals only. Many of the details of the UK’s future immigration system remain unknown. Some immigration arrangements may be influenced by trade deals between the UK and other countries.

The proposals are subject to change.

In December 2018, the May Government published its White Paper ‘The future skills-based immigration system’ which set out proposals for the post-Brexit immigration system.  The system proposed in the White Paper is based on the existing immigration rules which apply to non-EEA nationals, but with many changes

Whilst the Home Secretary, Priti Patel, has said the new Government will build on the White Paper, it is currently unclear to what extent their plans will deviate.[1]

On 6 September 2019 the Home Secretary commissioned the Migration Advisory Committee to explore the possibility of an “Australian style points-based system” in the UK.

This briefing paper provides an overview of some of the proposals for the future immigration system, including those outlined in the Immigration White Paper. Throughout this paper the term ‘EEA citizen’ is used to refer to citizens of the EU27, and the EEA countries of Iceland, Liechtenstein, and Norway, and of Switzerland.

[1] Mail on Sunday, I will shake up immigration, says Priti Patel: Home Secretary bluntly reveals her determination to secure our borders – deal or no deal, 28th July 2019

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