A Guide to Immigration Issues When Travelling to the UK as an EU National
There are stories in the UK newspapers of EU nationals being detained at UK airports and refused entry clearance to the UK. Some have said these are just rumours but sadly immigration solicitors know that some EU nationals are being refused entry to the UK or are being questioned closely by border officials about the purpose and length of their visit to the UK.
In this article we look at the immigration rules on travelling to the UK as an EU national and what you need to do.
UK Online and London Based Immigration Solicitors
EU nationals entering the UK
With all the press reports about EU nationals being refused entry to the UK on arrival at UK airports and ferry terminals, we have had enquiries from worried EU nationals who are concerned that they need a visa to enter the UK or that they won't be able to return to live in the UK, having left for family, work or COVID-19 related issues or a combination of the three.
As EU nationals enjoyed free movement until 11 pm on the 31 December 2020 it can be hard for EU citizens to understand the new rules or accept changes to the paperwork needed to come to the UK. However, UK employers are finding the new UK points-based immigration system equally hard to get to grips with as, from their perspective, it is creating barriers to employing the EU nationals they want and need to employ because of the UK skills shortage.
Visa requirements and EU nationals entering the UK
If you are an EU national wanting to come to the UK you may need a visa from the Home Office. However, not every EU national requires a visa.
There are three main categories of EU nationals travelling to the UK:
- Those with settled status or pre-settled status under the EU Settlement Scheme or those who would have been entitled to apply for settled status before the official end date of new applications to the scheme on the 30 June 2021. To qualify under the scheme, an EU national had to have exercised free movement rights and been living in the UK before the 31 December 2020.
- Those who want to come and live or work in the UK and who had not been living in the UK before the end of free movement on the 31 December 2020.
Coming to the UK as a visitor from the EU
If you are entering the UK for a visit of less than six months there is no legal requirement for you as an EU national to apply for a visitor visa . That is because, unlike some other countries, it isn’t mandatory to secure an entry visa. Some of the EU nationals recently stopped at the UK border did not have visas and were questioned by border officials as they were suspicious that the travellers either intended to stay longer than six months or planned to work whilst in the UK.
If you wish to do so, you can apply for a standard visitor visa so you have entry clearance. However, your entry will still be subject to border official discretion. For example, the official would be entitled to refuse entry if they thought you were planning to work whilst in the UK or intended to remain in the UK after the six-month period so that you could study in the UK.
Whether you apply for a visitor visa or not, you still won't be able to work in the UK if you enter as a visitor unless you want to carry out work related activities that fall within the definition of ‘permissible business’ activities. Whether you apply for a visitor visa or enter the UK as a visitor without a visa the permissible activities are identical.
Permissible non-business activities include tourism or visiting family. Permissible business activities include:
- Attending job interviews and meetings, conferences, and seminars.
- The signing of deals and contracts.
- The conduct of site visits and inspections.
- Intra-corporate activities (BUT no direct client contact or work is allowed under the immigration rules).
- Religious workers who are preaching and carrying out pastoral work.
- Reporting and journalism, scientific and academic research, and tour group work.
- Translation and interpretation work if you are an employee of an overseas business.
The take out from this is that you can't come to the UK thinking that you can get a job to help supplement your holiday funds. As you don’t have a right to work in the UK, any employer employing you would be in breach of UK illegal working legislation and they could face a fine or prosecution.
In the same way that you can't pick up bar, hospitality, or other work to supplement your holiday funds you can’t decide to stay on in the UK after a successful job interview. You will need to secure the right work visa first, normally the skilled worker visa.
Coming to the UK with settled status or pre-settled status under the EU Settlement Scheme
If you secured settled status or pre-settled status under the EU Settlement Scheme (as you were living in the UK before the 31 December 2020 and you made your application before the deadline of the 30 June 2021) you are free to enter the UK as you retain your right to free movement . You won't be subject to immigration controls and you are free to live and work in the UK without restriction.
Some people with settled status have had issues with securing entry clearance on return to the UK as they haven’t been able to prove their status. It is best to check what documents you will need to produce so border officials can clearly see that you are entitled to return to the UK.
If you applied for permanent residence or were eligible to apply for pre-settled status or settled status but did not do so before the 30 June 2021 and you now want to return to the UK, after seeing family in the EU or working there on a temporary basis, then you need urgent immigration legal advice.
If your circumstances are complex because of the length of your absence from the UK, but you plan to return to live and work in the UK, call OTS Solicitors on 0203 959 9123 or contact us online to see how we can help you.
The message from all UK immigration solicitors is to act quickly. That is because the EU Settlement Scheme closed to new applicants on the 30 June 2021. Late applications are allowed if there is a reasonable explanation for the delayed application
EU nationals coming to live or work in the UK and who didn’t live in the UK before the end of free movement on the 31 December 2020.
If you are an EU national who is not eligible to apply for pre-settled status or settled status under the EU Settlement Scheme then you will need a visa if you want to come to the UK to live or work. EU nationals needing a visa include citizens from Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway, and Switzerland as well as EU citizens. This is because EU nationals are treated the same as non-EEA nationals for immigration purposes under the new UK points-based immigration system.
There are a variety of visas available, such as:
- A family visa if you are in a relationship with a British citizen or someone who is settled in the UK. This is also referred to as a spouse visa or partner visa or fiancé visa.
- A student visa if you plan to study in the UK.
- A business visa if you plan to set up your own business in the UK. These visas are referred to as the start-up visa or the innovator visa.
- A work visa, such as a skilled worker visa (if you have a job offer at the required skill level and the job meets the minimum salary threshold) or an intra company transfer visa ( if your overseas based company is transferring you from the EU to work in the UK).
The above are the most common visa options but there are other less popular options such as the frontier work permit or the graduate visa or the sole representative visa or investor visa. An immigration solicitor will need to speak to you to work out which UK work or family or business visa is best for you.
The take out is that you may not need a visa to enter the UK from the EU but it is best to check with an immigration solicitor about if a visa is necessary and, if not, what paperwork you will need to show to border officials to prove your right to enter the UK.
UK Online and London Based Immigration Solicitors