Freelancers’ Questions: Are the UK’s EU freelancers hit by the Brexit deal?

Freelancer’s Question: Are there any new details about EU freelancers who work and live in the UK in light of the Brexit deal of December 31st? And what are the presumably similar considerations for UK sole traders and freelancers who want to contract in the EU, as a self-employed person doing temporary assignments in an EU country?

Freelancers’ Questions: Are the UK’s EU freelancers hit by the Brexit deal?

Expert’s Answer: There are very few new details stemming from the fundamental fact that the Free Movement of Persons was planned to end on December 31st 2020 and did end, with the end of the so-called ‘transition period.’

The 'freelancer' umbrella

A freelancer by definition is a self-employed individual. Still, most of us use the term to cover a few types of independent worker -- be they self-employed for tax and other purposes, employed by an umbrella company or working via their own limited company. The following information applies to all these types of ‘freelancers’ -- so whether you are a limited company or a sole trader for example, read on.

Such freelancers (and their family) will usually now need to apply to continue living in the UK if they’re from any of the following:

  • the EU (except Ireland)
  • Iceland
  • Liechtenstein
  • Norway
  • Switzerland

December 31st really was the cut-off

In most cases, such individuals must have started living in the UK by December 31st 2020.

To arrive on or after January 1st 2021, the likelihood is that they may need to apply for a visa.

If they have a ‘UK permanent residence’ document, they will have one of the following:

  • a certificate inside their blue residence documentation booklet (or it’s a pink booklet for Swiss nationals)
  • a certificate inside their passport
  • a biometric residence card confirming permanent residence

But freelancers would not have the permanent residence document unless they applied to the UK Home Office for it. They will usually only be able to apply for it when they have lived in the UK for five years.

Currently, they can no longer apply for a permanent residence document.

What does 'indefinite leave' mean?

And EU, EEA and Swiss citizens do not automatically have indefinite leave to remain in or enter the UK.

This ‘indefinite leave’ to remain and indefinite leave to enter are types of immigration status that the individual will usually have applied for. They will usually have a stamp in their passport or a letter from the Home Office.

They will be able to continue living in the UK if they successfully apply:

Apply to the EU Settlement Scheme

They can apply to the EU Settlement Scheme to stay in the UK. They will receive ‘settled’ or ‘pre-settled’ status if successful.

Apply for British citizenship

Similarly, they can apply for British citizenship -- if they are eligible for it after but only after they have got settled status under the EU Settlement Scheme. If they want to apply for citizenship before then, they will need a permanent residence document.

But as mentioned previously, such freelancers and other individuals can no longer apply for a permanent residence document.

More important dates for your diary

If you do not have one and want to continue living in the UK, the obvious path is to apply to the EU Settlement Scheme.

Be aware however that while the EU Settlement Scheme is open now and you can apply now if certain criteria are met, the deadline to apply is June 30th 2021. If this is of interest to you, consider that you must usually have started living in the UK by December 31st 2020.

The deadlines are different in some situations, for example if:

  • they are applying to join a close family member
  • the family member of a British citizen (so-called ‘Surinder Singh’ applications)
  • they stop being exempt from immigration control

Be aware that which status you receive, may depend on the timing of the application.

Vice-versa, broadly

As you imply in your question, the rules are broadly the same for UK nationals (including sole traders) who are currently in EU-member countries. If you were living in the EU before December 31st then, provided that you register there and have your qualifications on which you rely for your work approved, you can continue to live and work in that country. However, you may not live or work in any other EU country besides where you resided before December 31st 2020.

The expert was Kevin Austin, chief executive of overseas tax specialists Access Financial.


7th January 2021

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