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Country Update 2021: UNITED KINGDOM

Contributed by: Kingsley Napley LLP

June 2019 to May 2021

1. Country Overview

Brexit. The UK left the EU on 31 January 2020. Free movement continued until the end of the Brexit transition period on 31 December 2020. We are now in a grace period which ends on 30 June 2021. EU citizens living in the UK have until then to apply for permission to stay under the EU Settlement Scheme: Since 1 January 2021 EU citizens who want to move to the UK for work or study need a visa.

New immigration system. A new Skilled Worker visa was launched in December 2020:

Physical visas and residence permits being phased out. The aim is for all types of immigration status to be digital by the end of 2024.

Coronavirus travel restrictions. The UK introduced travel restrictions in June 2020 – requiring people arriving in the UK to self-isolate for 14 days. The rules have changed many times since then. The current rules for England are here:

2. Legislative Changes

The UK’s Immigration Rules are in the process of being rewritten: Most of the substantive changes relate to the Skilled Worker route, which has replaced the old Tier 2 (General) visa category.

3. Business Immigration

  • Business visitors. No significant changes.

  • Temporary immigration categories. There is a new British National (Overseas) visa. This is open to people from Hong Kong who registered as a British National (Overseas) – a special type of British nationality – before Hong Kong was handed over to China on 1 July 1997:

  • Employment-based immigration (work and residence permits). Major changes following the introduction of the Skilled Worker route: resident labour market test abolished, annual cap on visas suspended, skill level and salary level lowered:

  • Highly Skilled immigration (Blue Card etc). No significant changes.

  • Investment-based immigration (Investors/Entrepreneurs). No significant changes.

4. Family based immigration

No significant changes.

5. Asylum

Since 1 January 2021 the Dublin III Regulation no longer applies to the UK.

A New Plan for Immigration policy statement was published in March 2021 containing radical proposals such as these:

Anyone who arrives into the UK illegally – where they could reasonably have claimed asylum in another safe country – will be considered inadmissible to the asylum system, consistent with the Refugee Convention. We will clarify key elements of the Refugee Convention in UK law.

“We will also amend … the Nationality Immigration and Asylum Act 2002 so that it is possible to move asylum seekers from the UK while their asylum claim, or appeal is pending.

This will keep the option open, if required in the future, to develop the capacity for offshore asylum processing - in line with our international obligations.”

6. Deportation

Since 1 December 2020 visas must be refused or cancelled if the person has been convicted of a criminal offence for which they have received a custodial sentence of 12 months or more:

7. Citizenship

No significant changes.

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