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Migration to the UK: an introduction

Brexit and immigration status

This section covers the effects of the EU Referendum in 2016 in the UK, and the issue of residency status for people from EU27 countries in the UK living under the reciprocal rights arrangement across the EU (also known as Freedom of Movement). 

The UK Government is now rolling out its "Settled Status" scheme, whereby citizens of other EU countries (EU27) resident in the UK have to apply to remain in the UK.

Information about Settled Status:

  • The UK Government has since started to roll out its Settled Status scheme for those who can prove five years continuous residence (or pre-settled status for those with two years) (United Kingdom, 2020). 
  • Campaign group the3million (2020) has information, updates and concerns about the Settled Status scheme
  • The Joint Council for the Welfare of Immigrants (JCWI) has information including a page of key FAQs (JCWI, 2020) and a briefing paper (Gardner and Rahman, 2019)
  • Davidson Morris (2018) legal group have a page of FAQs which outline the key elements of Settled Status and applications. 
  • The Free Movement legal group has extensive information on immigration policy developments including Settled Status

Concerns relate to the necessity for application (not simple registration), Home Office errors, possibility of rejection, and the danger of those without documentation falling into the Hostile Environment. Some may simply not realise the need to register, possibly having been in the UK for many years, and thus become undocumented (BBC News Leeds and West Yorkshire, 2019) .

Comparisons have been noted with the changes in Immigration Law in the 1970s, and subsequent cases such as the Windrush scandal, which emerged around two years after the EU referendum  (Yeo, Sigona and Godin, 2019).  For links and summary information about legislation immediately prior to and subsequent to the 2016 referendum vote, see the previous section in this guide (UK Legislation 2010-).

Other points: 

  • There are EU27 citizens who have left the UK, others have decided to opt for the expensive route of full citizenship (University of Birmingham, 2019)
  • Numbers of Health Service staff coming to the UK, for example, have dropped dramatically since the 2016 referendum (Health Foundation, 2019

​​Hate Crime.  

  • There have been many individual reports of hostility to EU27 citizens and other minority groups in the UK around the time of the 2016 referendum and since
  • See Full Fact (2018) and the Home Office itself (O'Neill, 2017, pp. 5-6). 


BBC News Leeds and West Yorkshire (2019) The Italians asked to stay in post-Brexit UK. Available at: (Accessed 18 June 2019) 

Davidson Morris (2019) Settled status in the UK - FAQs.  Available at: (Accessed 18 June 2019)

Free Movement (2020) Free Movement.  Available at: (Accessed 29 June 2020)

Full fact (2018) Hate crime in England and Wales.  Available at: (Accessed 19 June 2019)

Gardner, Z. and Rahman, M. (2019) Guaranteeing settled status for EEA nationals. London: Joint Council for the Welfare of Immigrants.

Health Foundation (2019) Large drop in the number of new nurses coming from the EU to work in the UK.  Available at: (Accessed 19 June 2019)

Joint Council for the Welfare of Immigrants (no date) EU Settlement Scheme FAQs. Available at: (Accessed 25 June 2020)

O'Neill, A. (2017) Hate crime, England and Wales, 2016/17.  Statistical Bulletin 17/17, 17 October 2017.  London: Home Office.  Available at: (Accessed 19 June 2019) 

The3million (2019) Applying for settled status.  Available at: (Accessed 25 June 2020)

United Kingdom (2020) Stay in the UK after it leaves the EU ('settled status'): step-by-step. Available at: (Accessed 29 June 2020)

University of Birmingham (2019) Lack of trust in UK Government's settled status scheme pushes EU citizens to apply for naturalisation. Available at: (Accessed 19 June 2019) 

Yeo,C., Sigona, N. and Godin, G. Parallels between ending Commonwealth and EU citizen free movement rights.  Available at: (Accessed 18 June 2019). 

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