As if the past year could not be any stranger, there have recently been some big changes to the UK immigration system. From the introduction of a “new” points-based system (mostly a rebranding job), to the end of EU free movement to the UK, for the first time in decades, EEA nationals will now be subject to the same rules as non-EEA nationals.

I summarise below some of the new and key routes in the current UK Immigration Rules which might be of interest to our EEA colleagues, colleagues further afield, and prospective clients.

British National (Overseas) (“BNO”) citizens

One of 6 types of British nationality, people with links to Hong Kong were able to apply for BNO status until the “Handover” on 1 July 1997. Not all Hong Kong citizens have BNO status, and holders of BNO status are not necessarily British citizens (the main type of British nationality) and therefore usually require an appropriate visa to come to the UK.

From 31 January 2021, people with BNO status from Hong Kong will be eligible to apply for a Hong Kong BNO visa, which is a new 5-year route to settlement. This visa category will allow eligible applicants and family members to live, work, and study in the UK.

Turkish Citizens

With the end of the Brexit Transition Period at 11pm on 31 December 2020, the “Ankara Agreement” no longer applied to the UK.

Turkish citizens wanting to move to the UK to live and work can no longer do so under the “Turkish Worker” or “Turkish Businessperson” visa categories. However, Turkish citizens already in the UK may still be able to apply to switch into these routes or extend their visas.

Irish Citizens

Although EU free movement rules no longer apply, most Irish citizens can still freely come to the UK to live, work and study, without applying for any kind of immigration permission.

EEA Visitors to the UK

EEA citizens can visit the UK for up to 6 months without applying for a visa; however, you must be able to satisfy the Immigration Officer at the UK Border that you are a genuine visitor. What you can and cannot do in the UK as a visitor is heavily regulated.

Visitors are not allowed to work in the UK unless it is a “permitted activity”. For example, it is permitted to carry out limited business activities (e.g. attend seminars/ conferences/ meetings). In addition, visitors must not receive payment from a UK source, except for limited reasons, for example reasonable expenses to cover the costs of travel and subsistence.

EU Settlement Scheme (“EUSS”)

This UK “post-Brexit” system was introduced on 29 March 2019 (the original Brexit date). In line with the end of the Brexit Transition Period, as long as an EEA citizen was resident in the UK before 11pm on 31 December 2020, they now have until 30 June 2021 to submit a free application for immigration status.

In most cases, applicants will either get Pre-settled Status (a 5-year e-visa), or Settled Status (effectively permanent residence).

If an EEA citizen has not made an application under the EUSS, or other immigration route by 30 June 2021, they will no longer be in the UK lawfully.

For most EEA citizens wishing to take up residence in the UK from 1 January 2021, they are unlikely to be eligible to submit an application under the EUSS and must look at other UK visa options, such as those set out below.

The (“new”) UK Immigration System

Previous visa category

Replacement/ New visa category

Effective from


Tier 1 (Investor)


For HNWI with a minimum of £2million to invest in qualifying UK investments

Tier 1 (Graduate Entrepreneur)/ Tier 1 (Entrepreneur)

Start-up/ Innovator

29 March 2019

For entrepreneurs to set-up and run their own business in the UK

Tier 1 (Exceptional Talent)

Global Talent

20 February 2020

For recognised (potential) leaders in certain sectors to live/ study/ work/ run their own business in the UK

Tier 2 (General)

Skilled Worker

1 December 2020

For sponsored migrants to live and work in the UK

Tier 2 (Intra-company Transfer)

Intra-Company Transfer

1 December 2020

For employees working in a linked overseas entity to be transferred to work for the linked UK entity

Tier 4 (General)


5 October 2020

For people aged 16 and over to study in the UK

Tier 4 (Child)


5 October 2020

For people aged between 4 and 17 to study in the UK

Tier 5 (Youth Mobility Scheme)

Youth Mobility Scheme

1 December 2020

For certain foreign migrants to come to the UK on a working-holiday basis

Sole Rep


1 December 2020

For senior employees to be sent by their overseas employer to establish and run its first UK establishment

UK Ancestry


1 December 2020

For Commonwealth citizens with at least one grandparent born in the UK, to live and work in the UK

Most but not all of the above options allow individuals to apply for settlement in the UK, usually after 5 years.

The UK immigration system is quite complex with lots of different requirements which must be met.

The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.