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Brexit: everything that will change for expats in 2021

Updated: Jun 7, 2023

Brexit will be officially effective on December 31, 2020. And if you are planning to move abroad, alone or with your family, it may be advisable to speed up your departure.

If you are planning to emigrate to the land of the UK, you must follow political news assiduously. Well, that does not mean we understand much about it either, as the twists and turns of Brexit have continued to crop up since the British decided to leave the European Union.

So how do you move to the UK? What are the holdups?

What is Brexit?

We start with a little semantics: Brexit is an abbreviation of words British and Exit. Until then, it is not too complicated. Brexit is therefore the name given to the United Kingdom's desire to leave the European Union, after their entry in 1973. The British decide, by a vote in 2016 winning nearly 52% of the vote, to leave the EU.

Initially, the UK had two years to prepare for its release, but multiple twists only pushed the official date back and forth, until finally a deal was reached to end the English recess on December 31, 2020.

That is if all goes well and the EU and UK can agree on the terms and modalities of Brexit.

But, because of the latest political twists and turns (such as the fact that Boris Johnson, the current Prime Minister, is not violating international law by partially going back to the Brexit agreement which had been approved and validated by almost everyone in the world), the United Kingdom's exit from the European Union is far from being recorded.

Let's say that if the date of December 31, 2020, is still relevant but the British government continues to want to do as it pleases, to the point of relaunching a conflict that no one wants to see between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland, the United Kingdom could well leave Europe with a no-deal. And a no-deal Brexit is a disaster for everyone.

The British government has recently said that if by October 15 no agreement was reached between the parties, a no-deal would be pronounced. Big pressure.

As for post-Brexit life, nothing is set in stone, and the situation is still very unclear. New immigration law is expected to be presented and discussed very soon, but for now, everything remains very uncertain.

Moving to the UK before Brexit

Currently, it is still possible to settle in the United Kingdom with almost the same rights as the British, by taking simple steps. With Brexit fast approaching, it is essential to be able to prove that you were a resident on English soil before December 31, 2020.

Moving to the UK before Brexit

Currently, it is still possible to settle in the United Kingdom with almost the same rights as the British, by taking simple steps. With Brexit fast approaching, it is essential to be able to prove that you were a resident on English soil before December 31, 2020.

Be able to prove your installation before December 31, 2020

The first thing to do when you arrive, and after having passed the compulsory quarantine period due to the health situation, is to find accommodation. You will need to be able to prove that you lived in the UK before the country officially left Europe.

To do so now is the time to organize shovel tours whether physical or virtual and finally have your name on a lease.

Please note, if you do not have UK guarantors or bank history, agencies or landlords may ask you to pay several months' rent in advance. Above all, never rent an apartment that you have not visited: scams are common.

The second thing to do on arrival: ask for your NIN (the National Insurance Number).

Once on the phone, you must request an appointment which will be fixed more or less quickly, depending on the number of requests and the health situation, in the nearest Job Center (Only if you live in the UK).

This NIN number is kind of proof that you exist in the UK.

But do not panic to not having a NIN does not stop you from living either. You can still work, see a doctor, and even get the pre-settled status (we explain what this is below).

So if you cannot get that number before the end of the Brexit transition period, that's okay in itself. All you need to do is redouble proof of your residence in the UK.

The EU Settlement Scheme Award Program

The pre-settled status is the equivalent of a residence status, which allows Europeans to settle in England, Scotland, Northern Ireland, etc., before the end of the so-called "transition" period. (i.e., before the official Brexit date which was pronounced on January 31, 2020), to continue to benefit from the same rights as before.

What rights are we talking about? Residence rights and social protection, to name only the most important.

Since the Brexit, pre-settled status must be obtained by all those who have been on British soil for less than five years. After five years, you will have to go through the same procedures again, but this time on the bus to obtain "settled status."

When you register for the pre-settled status, you will be asked for several things:

  • Prove your identity

  • Have a clean criminal record (a serious crime prevents you from obtaining pre-settled status, even if it has been committed elsewhere than in the UK)

  • Proof of your UK residence. This is where the NIN comes in, the name of the lease, proof of payment of council tax, proof of a British bank account, in short everything which justifies that yes, you were there before December 31, 2020.

If you are expatriating with your children, be careful: you must also apply for each of them, and link it to yours.

And do not panic: if you have all the proof of your residency before December 31, 2020, you officially have until June 2021 to complete your application for pre-settled status. The key is to be present in the territory before the implementation of migration laws.

Moving to the UK After Brexit

And how does it work, if we cannot emigrate before December 31, 2020? Well, it could be a hassle or even a hassle depending on the profiles.

Indeed, the British government has implemented a "points" immigration system for all future nationals, European or not. This system will be effective from January 2021, and it will make it possible to "filter" applications for residence on British territory.

The establishment of this system, although not yet completely final, is not surprising in itself, since it meets the main objective of Brexit: to reduce migratory flows.

In concrete terms, to be authorized to settle in the United Kingdom from January 1, 2021, you will need to obtain 70 points. On the website of the British government, an explanatory table gives all the criteria:

If you want to move to the UK after 2020, you will therefore need to tick certain boxes to obtain the required 70 points.

In particular, it will be preferable to have a promise of employment for highly qualified or necessary work such as health professions, to be able to speak English fluently or to have a high degree of subject relevant to the country.

So finished the jobs in bars and restaurants during the gap years, finished odd jobs. To live in the UK, you will need to earn a salary of 25,000 pounds per year.

The United Kingdom (UK) exited the European Union (EU) on 31 January 2020. This policy statement sets out how we will fulfil our commitment to the British public and take back control of our borders :

We are ending free movement and will introduce an Immigration Bill to bring in a firm and fair points-based system that will attract the high-skilled workers we need to contribute to our economy, our communities and our public services. We intend to create a high wage, high-skill, high productivity economy.
We will deliver a system that works in the interests of the whole of the UK and prioritises the skills a person has to offer, not where they come from.

-The British government

After Brexit, the Installation Will Be Almost Impossible

Also, a tax of 400 pounds per year could be imposed on Europeans who still decide to put down their suitcases, to help finance the NHS (National Health Service). This may perhaps foreshadow a change in the rights of European migrants after Brexit.

To sum up: if you don't have a job offer waiting for you (and with a high salary), if you do not speak or speak little English if you are not looking for a job in a “hot” field like health, or in a scientific field, if you don't have any qualifications or diplomas, it might be very complicated or, let's be frank: impossible to live in the UK.

For now, the government says it will still be possible to travel for six months in the UK, but it will not be possible for tourists to work. Visas for students and self-employed people are being considered and discussed, but so far there is no clear information on this subject yet.

The immigration law, known as the Immigration Bill, has not been slowed down by the pandemic, as many expats or future expats hoped. It went before the British MPs and was accepted.

It should therefore be applied, as planned, from 1 January 2021, at the end of the transition period.

Should we put an end to expatriation to the United Kingdom?

The only advice I can give you, in these uncertain times, is to protect your back as much as possible, whether you decide to go ahead, before or after Brexit.

Leaving before December 31, 2020, things should be simpler and your rights should be assured even from 2021, but you can never be too careful.

Moving away with just a bundle will not be possible afterwards, because even an economic crisis and a pandemic have failed to stop the UK from leaving the European Union.

The British have made their choice, and whether we like it or not, we must adapt to what they come up with if the urge (or obligation) to live in the UK wins out.

Be as realistic as possible about the country's economic situation (unemployment figures following the pandemic are only just starting to appear), and follow UK political news. Every day a new story, and it's not about to end.


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