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DEALING WITH BREXIT

EXPLAINED: What Brits with EU partners need to know about returning to live in UK

While many of the 1.2 million Brits living in the EU have no immediate plans to return to the UK, circumstances can change. For those who have non-British partners heading home on a long-term basis could be more difficult than they imagined. We explain why.

EXPLAINED: What Brits with EU partners need to know about returning to live in UK
Photo: Martin Bureau/AFP

Since Brexit, the UK has a strict immigration policy in place for EU nationals moving to the country and contrary to popular belief, even if they are married to a British national it does not exempt them from those requirements.

So whether you’re planning a move back to the UK with your non-British partner in the near future or whether you just want to keep your options open, here’s what you need to know.

Moving before March 29th 2022

If your moving plans are imminent, you should be able to meet the deadline of March 29th 2022, which is an important cut-off point.

Thanks to campaigning groups like British in Europe, the UK government agreed to a grace period for Brits living in the EU to move back and bring their non-British spouses with them.

The March 29th date relates to the UK’s original exit date from the EU, and British in Europe is campaigning for an extension to reflect the several delays before the UK actually left.

This means the process is easier – but it’s still not simple.

First you must apply to the Home Office in the UK for an EU Settled Status Family Permit. This must be done before the move and the EU partner should not enter the UK until they have the permit.

Processing time for these permits vary, some people have reported it has taken several months, while others have had their application rejected and had to begin the lengthy appeals process.

Once you have the permit you can then make the move, and once in the UK the EU partner needs to apply for EU pre-settled status.

This application must be made before March 29th 2022 in order to benefit from the Settled Status system, which is now closed to all other new arrivals from the EU.

The advantage of this system is that the EU partner does not have to satisfy immigration criteria such as financial thresholds.

Moving after March 2022

If you move back to the UK with a non-British partner after March 2022, or you don’t get the application submitted in time, you fall under the new immigration regime.

This means that the EU partner will need a visa to enter the country, and in most cases this needs to be applied for before the move.

Some people think that being married to a Brit means more or less unlimited entry to the UK, but in fact this is not the case and the couple must comply with strict rules including minimum income levels. For people in low-earning professions, or those who are not able to work in the UK, this could effectively bar the non-EU partner from entering the country.

There are essentially two routes – the non-EU partner can apply for a visa in their own right, or the British partner can sponsor their partner for a visa

Own visa

The points-based system that now applies to EU citizens is the same as the system in place for non-EU nationals and essentially requires applications to gain a required level of points by things like earning enough money, having sufficient language skills or having certain skills or qualifications that the UK has a shortage of.

Find our more here.

Sponsored visa

There is also an option for the British partner to sponsor their EU spouse’s visa, but this too has a minimum income requirement.

The Citizens Advice Bureau in the UK lays out the following income thresholds British partners must earn in order to sponsor their EU national spouse.

  • Partner only – minimum of £18,600 a year
  • Partner and children – minimum of £18,600 a year plus £3,800 for the first child and an extra £2,400 for each child after that. The extra income for children only applies if the children do not hold British citizenship or have residence rights in the UK.

Income can come from savings, pensions, rental income or earnings – but only earnings in the UK are taken into account, so if you have a salary from the EU country where you have been living, this would not be taken into account.

This could also rule out – for example – someone returning to the UK in order to take care of elderly or ill family members, who may not be able to work while taking on caring responsibilities.

If you do not meet the income requirements you can make up the amount through savings, if you have a sufficient amount. This needs to be £16,000 plus an extra £2.50 for every £1 below the income threshold you fall. The savings must have been in your name for six months or more.

If you’re British and don’t have a foreign partner (or you’re willing to dump your partner for the pleasure of living in a country of drizzle and chunky chips) then you can move back at any time without the need for a visa.

Visits

Short visits back to the UK to visit friends or family are allowed, although the non-British partner will need to be aware of new travel rules since the end of the Brexit transition period, including the end of using national ID cards for immigration purposes – only passports are now permitted. The same applies to children.

But longer visits should be approached with caution to ensure that the non-Brit does not exceed their maximum allowed number of days in the country. The 90-day rule applies to EU nationals visiting the UK, but the UK rules allow 180 days together, they don’t need to be divided into two sets of 90 like in the EU.

There are also reports of EU arrivals being grilled by immigration officials on arrival and some people who said they intended to, for example, help with childcare for their family were treated as unauthorised job-seekers and detained, so be sure you are very clear that you do not intend to work while in the UK. 

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TRAVEL NEWS

‘We will be ready’ vows France, amid fears of UK border chaos

Transport bosses have raised fears of long queues in British ports when the EU's new EES system comes into effect next year, but French border officials insist they will be ready to implement the new extra checks.

'We will be ready' vows France, amid fears of UK border chaos

The EU’s new EES system comes into effect in 2023 and many people – including the boss of the Port of Dover and the former UK ambassador to France – have raised concerns that the extra checks will lead to travel chaos on the UK-France border, and see a repeat of the long queues experienced last summer.

Port of Dover CEO Doug Bannister told The Local that he feared “tailbacks out of the port and throughout Kent” because the new system could take up to 10 minutes to process a car with four passengers, as opposed to 90 seconds currently.

EXPLAINED What the EES system means for travel to France in 2023

But French border control have insisted that they will be ready, replying to questions from the European Commission with “Oui, La France sera prête” (yes, France will be ready).

French officials said they had already undertaken extension preparation and would begin test runs of the new system in French border posts at the end of this year.

document shared recently by the secretariat of the EU Council (the EU institution representing member states) and published by Statewatch, a non-profit organisation that monitors civil liberties, shows how countries are preparing. 

“France has prepared very actively and will be on schedule for an EES implementation in compliance with the EU regulation,” French authorities say.

“The French authorities have carried out numerous studies and analyses, in cooperation with infrastructure managers, to map passenger flows at each border crossing post… and evaluate the EES impact on waiting times,” the document says. 

However, despite the preparation, the French admit that long waits at the border remain a worry, adding: “the prospect of the impact of EES on waiting times at the borders worries infrastructure managers. The fact remains that fluidity remains a concern, and that exchanges are continuing with each border post manager to make progress on this point.”

The EES system is due to come into effect in May 2023 and will be applied at all EU external borders – find full details on how it works HERE.

However there has been particular concern about the France-UK border due to three things; the high volume of traffic (in total over 60 million passengers cross the border each year); the fact that many travel by car on ferries and the Eurotunnel (while the EES system seems more designed with foot passengers in mind); and the Le Touquet agreement which means that French border control agents work in the British ports of Dover and Folkestone and at London St Pancras station.

EES is essentially a more thorough passport checking process with passengers required to provide biometric information including fingerprints and facial scans – border checks will therefore take longer per passenger, and this could have a big effect at busy crossing points like Dover.

The UK’s former ambassador to France, Lord Ricketts, told The Local: “I think the EES, in particular, will be massively disruptive at the Channel ports.”

The EU consultation documents also revealed more details of how EES will work on a practical level for car passengers – those travelling by ferry or Eurotunnel to France – with border agents set to use computer tablets to gather biometric information like fingerprints so that passengers don’t have to get out of their cars.

READ ALSO France to use iPads to check biometric data of passengers from UK

Doug Bannister added that Dover agents were “awaiting an invitation” to France to see how the new systems will work. 

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