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UK: White Paper on future immigration policy post-Brexit

09 January 2019


White Paper on future immigration policy post-Brexit published on 19 Dec 2018

Amidst ongoing preparations for a no-deal Brexit, the UK government has published their plans for a new immigration system after Brexit. The policy paper on the ‘future skills-based immigration system’ has been long overdue. The Brexit referendum was essentially a vote on migration issues and the government’s view on the future shape of its immigration policy post–Brexit has been eagerly awaited.

Pursuing the government‘s target to end free movement for European citizens to the UK to deliver on the referendum vote, the policy white paper follows the Migration Advisory Committee’s suggestions for no preferential treatment for EU workers.

The new system, shall be operational from when the UK exits the European Union at the end of the implementation period in January 2021. The government however does not address, in this paper, what happens in the event of a no-deal Brexit on 29 March 2019. 

From the date of exit, the government outlines there is to be one immigration system serving EU citizens and non-Europeans.

For Europeans already living and working in the United Kingdom, the government refers to their rights laid down in the ‘EU settlement scheme’, with the requirement of requesting individual permission to stay in the UK, when the UK exits the EU fully.

The policy paper on the ‘future skills-based immigration system’ includes:

  • An ‘amended’ route for skilled workers ‘open to all nationalities’
  • lowering of the skills threshold to include medium-skilled workers
  • no cap on numbers on skilled workers route
  • abolish resident labour market test
  • a new route comprising all skills levels for short-term (under one year) workers
  • a consultation on a minimum salary requirement of £30,000 for skilled migrants seeking five-year work visas


Over a cabinet dispute about who can be labelled to be a ‘skilled worker’ a compromise was made – the introduction of a minimum income threshold as part of attributes for skilled workers will be dependent on a consultation process. To set the threshold at £30,000 minimum income would mean that 76 percent of current European workers on the UK market could not qualify under the skilled route.

In respect of visit visas, the government reiterated their intention not to impose a visa requirement for short-term visits (up to six months) in advance of travel and ‘that citizens should not face routine intentions testing at the border’; and ‘the intention to allow European citizens to use e-gates’ but making this dependent on reciprocal arrangements.

The government alludes to the current system for non-visa nationals, who are exempt from requiring a visa to enter the UK for up to 6 months and suggesting that similar arrangements with the EU will allow to offer similar procedures.

According to the White Paper, it is intended that visitor rules shall extend to business visitors for short-term visits, in line with the above.

In the meantime, overall migration to the UK has increased whereas migration from EU nationals continues its decline from 180,000 EU migrants before June 2016 to 73,000 migrants coming to the UK, according to new figures from the National Statistics Office. It will have to be seen whether the government’s aim to reduce immigration to sustainable levels can be achieved this way or if ‘delivering Brexit’ as the government interprets it, is more likely to opening Pandora’s Box.


For further information, please contact:

Isabel Sylvestre, Associate

ebl miller rosenfalck, London


t: +44 20 7553 4073



 #Brexit, #immigration, #policy, #WhitePaper, #worker


The material contained in this article is provided for general purposes only and does not constitute legal or other professional advice. Appropriate legal advice should be sought for specific circumstances and before action is taken.


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