Bishop & Sewell

Yet more draft legislation is plodding its way through parliament, intended to implement partial plans for EU nationals travelling to the UK if we leave the bloc without a deal.

The EU Exit Order deals with only a few practical technicalities affecting EEA and Swiss citizens coming to the UK. There are no new revelations. It simply sets out the legal basis for certain developments.

The main takeaway point is that EEA and Swiss citizens will automatically be given permission to stay in the UK for a period of three months when they arrive in the country (unless a deportation or exclusion order has been made against them in the past).

In other words, they will not have to apply for any kind of waiver or visa in advance of travel. They can either pass through the normal gates, where their passport will be examined, or the electronic gates for those with ePassports.

However, the explanatory note to the EU Exit Order states they will not be given “any notice” of the decision – so this presumably means no stamp in their passport. It is therefore entirely unclear to me how new arrivals will be aware of this three-month limit or what will happen to them if they remain beyond this time.

EU Exit Order

This part of the EU Exit Order will only take effect once the existing “EEA Regulations” are revoked – but this will presumably be in the case of a no-deal exit only. If we leave with a deal, then EU citizens will be able to continue arriving freely until 31 December 2020 as under current law.

The rest of the EU Exit Order is general housekeeping of the UK’s immigration laws, ensuring they cater for the unique position EEA and Swiss nationals will hold after Brexit.

In particular, it makes amendments to existing laws to allow for the following:-

  • Indefinite leave to remain will only lapse after 5 consecutive years of absence for EEA citizens and 4 consecutive years of absence for Swiss citizens – compared to 2 consecutive years of absence for everyone else.
  • Everyone applying to enter the UK under the government’s settled status scheme will need to provide electronic fingerprints and photographs. At present, EEA citizens have to provide an electronic photo only if applying to stay in the UK
  • Anyone applying for leave to enter or remain under the settled status scheme will be exempt from paying the Immigration Health Surcharge – which costs nearly everyone else a whopping £400 per year of their visa, all payable up front.

In short, this EU Exit Order is a very important piece of legislation, without which a lot of government plans would collapse. It may not be of immediate interest to most people amidst the recent torrent of Brexit proposals (which I discussed here in a recent post). However, once implemented, its impact will be huge.

For advice on making a visa, immigration or nationality application or in relation to immigration matters more widely, please contact Karma or another member of our expert Immigration Team on 020 7631 4141 or email

David Little

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