Immigration dominated the EU referendum debate – with campaigners on both sides of the argument highlighting it as a key factor for their cause.
It is arguably one of the areas where the public could see the most changes after Brexit, such as to rules for travelling into Europe and for those coming into the UK once freedom of movement ends.
But the extent to which the changes will be felt will depend on the agreements finalised during the ongoing negotiations.
– What immediate changes to immigration will there be after 11pm GMT on Friday when the UK leaves the European Union?
Essentially nothing will change immediately. Freedom of movement will continue until at least the end of the year while the UK enters a transition period.
The Government said that means “the current rules on travel for the UK and EU will continue to apply during the transition period”.
UK nationals will still be able to live and work in the EU as they currently do. The same applies for EU nationals in the UK.
– What happens next?
Freedom of movement will end after the transition period. This could take place in January 2021, depending on how long the negotiations take.
After that, the Government wants to bring in an Australian-style points-based immigration system to determine who can live and work in the UK.
European citizens and their families already living in the UK will also need to have applied and been approved by the EU Settlement Scheme in order to remain in the country.
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– What about UK nationals living, working and studying in other EU countries?
The new rules still remain unclear and are yet to be finalised.
Each country will have different rules and requirements for long-term visas and it will depend on what they have agreed with the UK.
Helena Raulus, head of the Law Society’s Brussels office and an EU lawyer, advises people to start researching the country’s own immigration rules early and allow several months to complete any long-term visa process for living, working and studying in another country.
– What is a points-based immigration system?
The Migration Advisory Committee, the Government’s independent adviser on immigration, defines a points-based system as “a method of selecting migrants in which points are given for certain characteristics.
“Either every applicant with more than a certain number of points is admitted or, where there is a cap or quota, those with the most points are admitted.”
In Australia, migrants applying for a visa are typically selected based on “economically relevant characteristics” like education, language skills and work experience. There are different rules for refugees, asylum seekers and tourists.
Applicants pick a skilled occupation from a list and need to score a minimum number of points to be granted a visa. Checks will be made on someone’s personal and financial details, and identity documents, and could also include education, employment, health and travel history. Decisions may be made on age, qualifications and if they already have a job offer.
Similar systems are used in other countries like Canada and New Zealand.
– What is the EU Settlement Scheme?
EU citizens and their relatives, plus those from the European Economic Area (EEA) countries of Iceland, Liechtenstein and Norway as well as Switzerland, are asked to apply to confirm their immigration status so they can live and work in the UK when freedom of movement ends.
Relatives of EEA and Swiss citizens who are not from any of those countries but all live in the UK under EU law are also being urged to apply.
Once granted status, applicants can use the NHS, study and access public funds and benefits, as well as travel in and out of the country. But first they must prove their identity, show they live in the UK and declare any criminal convictions before the deadline at the end of December.