On 24 December 2020, the European Union and the United Kingdom reached an agreement in principle on the EU-UK Trade and Cooperation Agreement.. Content on the site is being monitored to reflect this and the changes.

The aim of information is to introduce you to the EU Settlement Scheme and the post-Brexit immigration scheme.

Let’s take a step back

What is an EEA National?

EEA (European Economic Area) nationals hold a passport from at least one of the following countries: 

Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, Croatia, Czech Republic, Cyprus, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Iceland, Ireland, Italy, Latvia, Liechtenstein, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain and Sweden. 

Switzerland is neither an EU nor EEA member but is part of the single market – this means Swiss nationals currently have the same rights to live and work in the UK as other EEA nationals. 

What is the EU Settlement Scheme?

The EU Settlement Scheme is a mandatory immigration application which certain EU, EEA or Swiss Citizens must make an application under. 

To be eligible for the scheme the applicant must be in the UK by 31 December 2020, and an application must be made by 30 June 2021. 

A successful application will provide the applicant with proof of their right to live and work in the UK. 

If the application is successful, the applicant will receive either “Settled Status” or “Pre-Settled Status”. 

Further information about the EU Settlement Scheme can be found here

What is the difference in “Settled Status” and “Pre-Settled Status”?

A successful applicant will generally receive “Settled Status” if they have lived in the UK for over 5 years. 

An applicant will generally receive “Pre-Settled Status” if they have lived in the UK for less than 5 years. 

Further information can be found here

What is the Common Travel Area?

The Common Travel Area (CTA) was established in the 1920s and effectively allows British and Irish citizens to live and work in the UK and Ireland without making an immigration application. The CTA will not change as a result of Brexit. As such: 

Irish passport holders do not have to make an immigration application (including applications under the EU Settlement Scheme or for a Frontier Worker Permit) in the UK; and 

British passport holders do not have to make an immigration application in Ireland. 

What is a Frontier Worker?

A “Frontier Worker” is an EEA National who lives in one state (e.g. Ireland) but works in another state (e.g. the UK). Under the UK rules, a “Frontier Worker” must be: (i) an EEA national; (ii) not “primarily resident” in the UK; and (iii) working in the UK. A person is not “primarily resident” in the UK if they have: (i) been present in the UK for less than 180 days in the 12-month period immediately before 31 December 2020; or (ii) returned (from the UK) to their country of residence at least: (i) once in the six-month period immediately before 31 December 2020; or (ii) twice in the twelve-month period immediately before 31 December 2020.

The UK launched the Frontier Worker Permit scheme on 10 December 2020 , click here for more information. Also more guidance can be found here.

The application can be made online, is free, and should be made by 30 June 2021.

Please note, Irish passport holders will not be impacted by the introduction of the Frontier Worker Permit as, due to the Common Travel Area, their right to live and work in the UK is not impacted by Brexit.

Key Dates

Important dates for the EU Settlement scheme and the introduction of the post-Brexit immigration scheme 

1 December 2020

The new UK immigration system will open for applicants who are seeking to enter the UK from 1 January 2021. 

1 January 2021

The post-Brexit immigration system comes into force – full details of which have not yet been published.

30 June 2021

The deadline to apply under the settlement scheme. 

The EU Settlement Scheme 

  • EEA nationals (who are not Irish or British) must make an application under the EU Settlement Scheme, to attain evidence of their right to live and work in the UK.
  • The EU Settlement Scheme is open for applicants and is set to close on 30 June 2021.
  • The EU Settlement Scheme applies to all EEA nationals who are not Irish (and if applicable their non-EEA national family members) who are living in the UK, even if they work in another EU state, such as the Republic of Ireland.
  • The EU Settlement Scheme is mandatory, and if an application is not made, the person may not have proof of their right to live and work in the UK. As such, this may cause issues for the person, and their employer, as the employer may not be able to verify the person’s right to work in the UK (including Northern Ireland).
  • Please note that EEA nationals who are not Irish and live in Northern Ireland, but work in Ireland, must make an application under the EU Settlement Scheme.

We have provided seven examples highlighting who is, and who is not, affected by the EU Settlement Scheme.

The Impact of the EU Settlement Scheme on Employers

Businesses should focus on understanding their workforce – its makeup, needs and vulnerabilities.
Some important questions are listed. 

Example 1

Jaroslaw is a Polish national who lives and works in Newry. Jaroslaw arrived in the UK in 2008 with his wife, Julia and their two children Adam and Karolina (who are all Polish).

Jaroslaw separated from Julia in 2011, and has a new partner, Anastasia, who is Ukrainian.

In 2015, Anastasia, and her children Yana, Anna and Andriy (who are also Ukrainian) came to live with Jaroslaw in Newry.

As Jaroslaw, Julia, Adam and Karolina are Polish, they are EEA nationals. As such, they must make an application under the EU Settlement Scheme.

Anastasia, and her children Yana, Anna and Andriy are Ukrainian, so are non-EEA nationals. However, as they live in the UK due to Jaroslaw’s rights as an EEA National, they must make an application under the EU Settlement Scheme.

Example 2

Stefan was born in Northern Ireland, and has Irish nationality.

He is married to Christina, who was born in Northern Ireland, and has British nationality.

The couple have 1 son, Rían, who was born in the Republic of Ireland, and has Irish nationality.

As Stefan, Christina and Rían have either Irish or British nationality, they are not required to make an application under the EU Settlement Scheme, regardless of where they were born.

However, Rían, as he is an Irish national born in the Republic of Ireland, is eligible to make an application under the scheme if he wishes to do so.

Example 3

Yannick holds French and British nationality.

He came to live in Dungannon in 2015 and still works there.

As Yannick has British nationality, he is not required to make an application under the EU Settlement Scheme.

Example 4

Paulo has Portuguese nationality. 

He currently works in Belfast but lives in Ireland. 

Paulo should make an application for a ” Frontier Worker Permit”. 

Further details on the Frontier Worker Permit can be found here.

Example 5

Patrick has Dutch nationality.

He lives in Antrim, and works in County Louth.

As Patrick is an EEA National, who lives in the UK, he must make an application under the EU Settlement Scheme, to prove his right to live in the UK.

This is despite Patrick working in the Republic of Ireland.

Therefore, employers who are based in the Republic of Ireland should note that any of their EEA national employees, who live in Northern Ireland, will be impacted by Brexit, and must make an application under the EU Settlement Scheme if that person wants to obtain proof of their right to reside in the UK.

Example 6

Ellen and Elaine are Irish nationals, who live in Dublin and work in both Dublin and Belfast.

As they are Irish nationals, who do not reside in the UK, they do not have to make an application under the EU Settlement Scheme.

Example 7

Martin is an Irish national living in Dublin.

Prior to 31 December 2020, Martin decides to move to Northern Ireland with his Canadian wife Shannon.

As an Irish passport holder, Martin does not need a visa to enter and work in the UK. Additionally, Martin is not required to make an application under the EU Settlement Scheme. 

As Martin is an EU national moving to another member state (from Ireland to Northern Ireland), Shannon is able to join Martin in Northern Ireland, as his non-EEA national spouse (under EU legal rights). Shannon should make an application under the EU Settlement Scheme. 

  • How many EEA nationals (who are not Irish) are in your workforce?
  • What is the risk of your affected employees not making an application under the EU Settlement Scheme, and how does that impact on the organisation? e.g. What is the potential cost of a loss of production if your employees do not make an application under the scheme and are unable to work for you as a result?
  • What can you do to reassure the affected staff? For example, can you provide information sessions on the EU Settlement Scheme or assistance with applications?
  • What strategy will you adopt to assist your affected employees?
  • Is the business trained and resourced to cope with Brexit related challenges? (e.g. Are there sufficient resources in place to conduct a potentially increasing number of Right to Work checks? Are the skills and resources in place to apply for visas and to comply with sponsor requirements in the post-Brexit immigration system?)
  • Do you need to recruit/attain specialist support to assist affected employees? (e.g. Do you need external assistance to provide legal/immigration advice with EU Settlement Scheme applications or visas in the post-Brexit immigration system?)
  • What impact will the post-Brexit immigration system have on your ability to recruit staff?
  • What is the impact on your staff travelling from the UK to the EU?

The Common Travel Area 

The Common Travel Area (CTA) was established in the 1920s to give British and Irish citizens the ability to travel freely between Great Britain, Northern Ireland and Ireland.

Employers should note that as a result of the Common Travel Area, Irish nationals have the right to live and work in the UK, and vice versa, British nationals have the right to live and work in Ireland without immigration restrictions. 

We’ve listed three examples below to help with clarity on who needs a visa and who does not. 

Example 1

Suzanne is an Irish national who works in the UK. She does not need a visa to do so.

Example 2

Ben is a British national who works in Ireland. He does not need a visa.

Example 3

Peter is Czech. Peter lives in Ireland, and in February 2022 decides he wants to move to the UK. Although Peter is travelling from Ireland to the UK, he will still need to comply with the post-Brexit immigration rules, including getting a work visa (if applicable). Peter is not able to avail of the rights and privileges of the Common Travel Area as he is not British or Irish.