What does the EU Exit deal mean for immigration?

The EU – UK’s trade and Cooperation Agreement (‘The Agreement’) was ratified by the UK Parliament on 30 December 2020 and has been applied provisionally since 01 January 2021 pending ratification by the European Parliament. In this article, we look at the impact of the agreement on immigration and what businesses should be considering next.

Freedom of Movement has ended with effect from 1 January 2021 and the UK-EU trade deal struck has not provided for this to continue in any modified form. Therefore, there will be additional considerations you will now need to make when you are engaged in business activities and deliver services in the EU (and vice versa). The parties to the deal have agreed:

  • to end freedom of movement of persons between the UK and the EU.  
  • to provide for visa-free travel for short term visits in accordance with domestic law.  
  • to allow the entry, temporary stay and employment of intra-corporate transferees.  
  • not to impose work permits on business visitors for establishment purposes.  
  • not to impose market access restrictions (such as economic needs tests) or discriminatory barriers on business-persons falling into any of the above categories.   
  • the permissible lengths of stay shall be 3 years for managers and specialists, up to one year for trainee employees and up to 90 days within any six-month period of business visitors for establishment purposes. 

The Withdrawal Agreement remains in place, protecting the rights of EU citizens and UK nationals resident prior to 31 December 2020, and the provisions of the Agreement do not change that.  

The UK Government has already moved to implement commitment made in the Agreement with a statement of changes being laid before Parliament on 31 December to amend the UK’s Immigration Rules with immediate effect.   

In planning future travel between the UK and the EU you and your employees should be aware of the following:  

  • UK and EU citizens will not be required to obtain a visa before travelling provided they are undertaking a short-term visit for a permissible business purpose.   
  • UK citizens travelling to the EU will need to ensure their passport is valid for at least 6 months from date of arrival.  
  • The permissible length of stay for short term visits will be for a period of up to 90 days in any six-month period.  
  • Exceptions to the general rules may apply for contractual service suppliers, independent professionals and business visitors for establishment purposes  
  • Individuals who will be working in the UK / EU will be required to apply for permission to work. Work permission requirements are governed by the national laws of UK / each Member State.  

What is still unknown?  

As the European Parliament has not yet ratified the agreement there is not yet clear guidance from the EU member states on how they will seek to implement the terms of agreement into EU / domestic law.  

What are the key actions businesses should take now?

Think about your business travel programme. If your business activities / service delivery requires you to send people to the EU (or from the EU to the UK) you will need to consider what form of immigration permission is required. If they will be working you need to consider the time and cost of obtaining a work permit or think about restricting their activities and / or providing services differently.   

Contractual service suppliers and independent professionals should speak to their UK final consumers and ensure they are aware of the new time limitations. It is also recommended that you seek further guidance to establish whether your sector qualifies for these extended time periods.   

UK based service suppliers and independent professionals providing services to the EU and Switzerland should also seek further guidance to ensure they are aware of any reciprocal arrangements being put in place to temporarily govern the movement of natural persons to supply services under the terms of the agreements.  

How we can help

Our immigration team at Mazars are here to help you plan for the coming months and can provide support with your business travel programme and in understanding how the UK – EU trade deal could affect your business. If you have any questions or queries relating to anything in this update, please get in touch via the button below.

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