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The UK left the European Union on 31 January 2020, with a deal agreed between the EU and the UK. A transition period will be in place until 31 December 2020, during which time the benefits associated with freedom of movement remain in place (including the right to move and work in the UK and all EU countries, and unrestricted business travel). Citizens of an EU member state who relocate to the UK and UK citizens who relocate to an EU country before the end of 2020 may continue living and working in that country after Brexit, but should take the necessary action to protect this position. UK nationals who move to the EU and Europeans who move to the UK after the end of the transition period will have to comply with EU and national immigration rules, i.e. obtain a work permit. New restrictions will also be in place for business visitors, assignees, and cross border workers.
At Fragomen, we continue to monitor the situation as it evolves. Check out our latest guides to help prepare for various scenarios.
Brexit in the UK


There are an estimated 3.4 million EU citizens living in the UK, exercising their right of free movement. Employers with EU staff must ensure that they have strategies in place to ensure that each impacted individual makes an application to evidence their right to live and work in the UK.


Europeans who reside in the UK on or before 31 December 2020 must apply for status under the EU Settlement Scheme. The deadline to apply is 30 June 2021. This online, straightforward application will give individuals an online status which they will use to prove right to work (and other entitlements) in the future.


Europeans who relocate from 1 January 2021, will need to meet the requirements of the UK’s immigration rules. A new immigration system is expected to be in place by then and Employers will need to ensure that they are actively preparing for the changes that will follow.


EU citizen business travellers to the UK will be treated as third country nationals from 1 January 2021, like American or Canadian nationals. They will need to ensure that the activities they wish to perform in the UK are permitted by business visitors.


Brexit in the EU


Although the UK is no longer an EU country, immigration rules between the EU and the UK will not change until 1 January 2021.


UK nationals already residing in an EU country will maintain their residence and work rights in the EU country where they reside, subject to a registration process specific to UK nationals. Under the terms of the Brexit deal, each EU country can choose to honour existing registrations or to require UK nationals to take some additional steps, so UK nationals should be familiar with the rules in the country where they live. Read more about each EU country’s rules here.


UK nationals moving to an EU country during the transition period (until 31 December 2020) will benefit from the same rights as those who have registered prior to Brexit.


Some cross-border workers registered before the end of the transition period will be able to maintain their right to reside in one EU country and work in another EU country. UK nationals regularly working in an EU country other than the one where they live, or living in the UK and regularly working in the EU, should be sure to protect these rights, as this type of cross border work will not be open to other UK nationals after the transition period.


Particular attention should be given to the post-transition phase. Immigration rules in the EU vary widely across the countries. UK nationals, as all other non-EU nationals, will have immigration limitations:


  • Business visitors will be limited to maximum 90 days in any 180-day period; their activities will have to be checked against all national legislations to verify if they are work permit exempt or not
  • Assignees and local hires will have to obtain work permits, which take between 1 and 6 months to obtain
  • Cross border workers will be severely impacted, as the immigration provisions allowing this for non-EU nationals are very limited


In addition, unless new rules on social security coordination are adopted before 1 January 2021, either between the UK and the EU, or between the UK and individual EU countries, UK business visitors and assignees will likely be subject to social security in the host EU country unless they can still benefit from the EU coordination rules because of their cross-border situation at the end of the transition period. This may create significant additional costs for companies.


Irish Nationals


Irish nationals will be able to continue work and live in the UK and are not required to apply under the EU Settlement Scheme. However, any non-Irish family members will be required to make an application either under the EU Settlement Scheme or the Immigration Rules.


Individuals may be interested in exploring whether they are already Irish or whether they are entitled to apply for Irish citizenship through their parents or grandparents. Fragomen can help with this.




Switzerland and the UK have safeguarded the existing rights of their citizen for the time when the UK is no longer a member of the EU. Both Swiss and British citizens will retain the rights granted under the Agreement on the Free Movement of Persons (AFMP) between Switzerland and the EU until the end of the transition period. The Agreement will enter into force when the AFMP between Switzerland and the UK is no longer applicable, which is at the end of the transition period agreed between the EU and the UK.


UK nationals wanting to immigrate to Switzerland after the end of the AFMP are not covered by this agreement anymore. If UK nationals want to immigrate to Switzerland after the AFMP ceases, they have to meet the terms of the Foreign Nationals and Integration Act FNIA, unless an additional bilateral agreement between Switzerland and the UK is concluded. UK nationals would be subject to work permit quotas in case the FNIA applies. In February 2019, the Federal Council decided to create separate work permit quotas in the amount of 3,500 available to UK nationals only. This guarantees the necessary flexibility for the Swiss economy, which can thus continue to recruit British workers.


Switzerland and the UK are also conducting discussions on a possible future immigration scheme. The exact form of the scheme has not yet been agreed. Any agreement on immigration after the AFMP ceases to apply must respect the terms of the Swiss Constitution.


What should employers do now?


It is easy to feel overwhelmed by Brexit planning. However, there are sensible, practical steps which should be taken now to ensure could are not caught short, come the end of the transition period.


Our latest guide contains a timeline of the steps to take to make sure your business is ready for the end of the transition period.


Ensure you are not working in silo. Brexit is an issue for every European jurisdiction. Ensure that all European offices are supporting UK national employees in the EU and vice versa to ensure that you are prepared with a comprehensive no-deal contingency plan.


How can Fragomen help?


With a project of this magnitude, you need an advisor who can see the global framework, provide a holistic view of the risks and opportunities that Brexit could present, and give you a voice at decision-makers’ tables.


We are best placed to deliver sound legal advice and help you understand what other businesses are doing to prepare. Whether you are planning for a deal and transitional period or contingency planning for no-deal, we can partner with you to:


  • Limit the impact on your staff’s mobility in and to the EU/UK
  • Provide you with benchmarking knowledge, events and tools
  • Screen your EU/UK population to identify and track affected staff
  • Develop a communication strategy for your employees, to inform them about political and legal developments and the impact on their rights (e.g. in the social security area)
  • Conduct one-to-one consultations and give personalised advice
  • Develop strategies ensuring compliance continuity with clear timelines and deadlines
  • Discuss and re-think your future recruitment or relocation policies to avoid disruptions


We are working with clients in many different ways to make sure they are ready for Brexit in all its guises.


The most common types of services for clients with EU populations in the UK is:


  • Change Management Consultancy – We are here to help you devise and implement a three-year plan to ensure you are ready for Brexit. We can help you advise the business about the path ahead, identify populations who could get forgotten (such as business visitors, frontier workers and those on assignment) and ensure you have measurables to evidence the success of the project
  • New immigration regime consultancy – We can help you conduct a gap analysis and identify issues that the proposed new regime may cause for your business. It is really important that reports on costs are provided to internal stakeholders so that businesses can make informed decisions on future strategy. HR and Mobility professionals are a crucial part of this and must ensure executive engagement
  • Townhalls/Webinars – We can deliver sessions to help your EU population in the UK understand what they need to do, what their family need to do and how to ensure that they retain their status
  • EU Settlement Scheme Surgeries – We can hold drop-in sessions to help your staff with their queries or process their applications
  • Transactional services – We can run EU Settlement Scheme applications from start to finish, ensuring project management and expiry tracking
  • Communications – We can draft communications to explain the current position to your workforce or internal stakeholders to reassure and to educate
  • Content – Create bespoke help sheet for issues for your business such as international business traveller populations or those on assignment outside of the UK
  • Guides/FAQs/Videos – We can provide self-help manuals to explain the processes which are ideal for publishing on your company’s intranet site


The most common types of services for UK nationals in the EU are:


  • Change Management Consultancy – We can help you devise and implement a plan to ensure you are ready for the complexity Brexit will bring across the 27 different immigration schemes in Europe. We can help you advise the business about the path ahead, identify populations who could get forgotten (such as business visitors, cross border workers and those on assignment) and ensure you have measurables to evidence the success of the project
  • Townhall/Webinars for UK nationals in the EU, with specific focus on the EU countries relevant for your staff
  • Business Visitor Quick Glance Matrix – We are able to provide a quick reference tool so you can assess the activities that do not require a work permit in each EU/EEA country and Switzerland
  • Communications – We can draft communications to explain the current position to your workforce or internal stakeholders to reassure, educate, and provide general advice
  • Content – We can create a bespoke help sheet for issues that are relevant to your business
  • Screen your UK population in the EU/EEA and Switzerland – Assess their current situation, advise on the steps to be taken before and after Brexit, triage them according to risk factors and proceed with relevant residence and work permit applications as soon as possible
  • Tailored visitor visa matrix - A detailed matrix summarising business visitor rules & restrictions across Europe, tailored towards the activities of your business

If you have any questions, our Brexit Task Force is here to help. Please contact us at [email protected].