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

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

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 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.

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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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