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Q&A for researchers: Working in the EU and UK

Will the status of non-UK nationals working or studying in the UK change when the UK leaves the EU?

If approved, the UK-EU Withdrawal Agreement will maintain visa-free work and study rights for individuals from the European Economic Area (EEA) until the end of the Brexit transition period. The scheduled end date for the transition is 31 December 2020 but could be pushed back if the UK and EU agree to an extension.

If the UK leaves the EU without a deal, there would be no transition period and EEA nationals arriving in the UK for study and work, for a period of three months or longer, would be required to apply for European Temporary Leave to Remain.

This would entitle new arrivals to remain in the UK for three years after which they would have to apply for fresh permission to stay in the UK. Find further information about European Temporary Leave to Remain on the government's website.

For non-UK EEA nationals living in the UK before exit day, a settlement scheme has been introduced so they can apply for permanent residency. Find further information on eligibility on the government's website.

Irish citizens’ work, study and residency rights are to be protected unconditionally.   

In December 2018, the UK government published the Immigration White Paper setting out its vision for visas and immigration policy after the UK leaves the EU.

Key proposals in the White Paper are as follows and are being consulted upon by government:

  • A new skills-based system for immigration would apply to EEA and non-EEA migrants seeking work in the UK
  • There would be two new work routes – one for skilled workers, another for temporary workers – on top of existing visa arrangements for innovators, exceptional talent, investors and other temporary workers
  • Under the skilled worker route, there would be no cap on numbers for skilled migrants
  • Eligibility would be determined by minimum salary and skill levels and all migrants would face the same rules on bringing dependants to the UK
  • A new temporary visa for ‘low risk’ nationals would enable migrants to work in the UK for up to 12 months with no sponsorship requirement and the flexibility to move between employers
  • The government would seek to establish reciprocal arrangements for short-term visits within the EU and says it does not “intend to require visitors who are citizens of current EU Member States to obtain a visit visa”
  • EEA nationals coming to study in the UK, including PhD students, would be subject to the same visas and immigration rules as non-EEA migrants

Will UK nationals be able to work or study elsewhere in the EU once the UK has left?

UK nationals are currently free to work and study in other EEA countries without a visa. If approved, the UK-EU Withdrawal Agreement would protect free movement rights until the end of the transition period. The visa treatment of UK nationals after the transition period will be decided by individual countries.

In a no-deal scenario, UK nationals would lose their free movement rights and likely require a visa to enter an EEA country for an extended period of study or work.

Will the Royal Society provide additional funding to support immigration and relocation expenses for researchers coming to work in the UK from around the world?

We do not yet know how the immigration system will change when the UK leaves the EU and what impact this will have on the costs of immigration and relocation. We will be keeping this under review.

What will happen to EU laws, policies and regulations which apply to science and research following the UK’s withdrawal from the EU?

The EU (Withdrawal) Act 2018 will transpose existing EU regulation into UK law at the point that the UK exits the EU. This means there will be no immediate changes to regulations governing science, even in a no-deal scenario. The extent to which the UK will follow or diverge from EU regulations after Brexit is not yet clear.

Find out more about the Royal Society's work on Brexit

The Royal Society is working to achieve the best outcome for research and innovation through the Brexit negotiations and support continuing relationships and build new ones across Europe and beyond.

Read a summary of our Brexit stance (PDF) and our no-deal factsheet. Our evidence reports on ‘UK research and the EU’ focus on people (PDF), funding (PDF) and regulation (PDF).

This page was last updated on 25 June 2019

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