Updated Home Office policy on using UK residence cards after 30 June 2021
26 May 2021
The Home Office has changed its policy on the use of UK residence cards (also called EEA biometric residence cards or BRCs) after 30 June 2021. The updated policy confirms the cards can be used by individuals who have status under the EU Settlement Scheme (EUSS), and for one entry by those who intend to apply under the scheme.
EEA BRCs are held by the non-EEA/Swiss family members of EEA/Swiss citizens. They were issued in accordance with EU law to those who applied for them by 31 December 2020.
The UK residence cards webpage was updated on 4 or 5 May 2021 without a separate announcement. Previously, the policy stated that EEA BRCs would no longer be valid after 30 June 2021. Although EUSS status is electronic, physical evidence of that status is still needed for some purposes, in particular for visa nationals to be able to prove to airlines and other international carriers, prior to boarding, that they have permission to enter the UK.
In response to the previous policy, the Home Office received a high level of applications from non-EEA/Swiss national EUSS status holders to replace EEA BRCs with EUSS BRCs. This created a bottleneck in application processing which the Home Office is seeking to partially address through the updated policy position.
Using an EEA BRC if status under the EUSS is held
Under the updated policy, a person who holds status under the EUSS can use an EEA BRC until it expires. At that point, they can apply for a replacement EUSS BRC.
This will enable the Home Office to replace EEA BRCs over a much longer time-horizon and free up biometric appointment availability case-working resources in the lead up to 30 June 2021.
Although EEA BRCs will remain to be valid for travel purposes, we are still awaiting updated guidance from the Home Office on whether these can be used for right to work or right to rent checks after 30 June 2021. It would seem likely that they will not be, and that an online check will be required instead.
Using an EEA BRC if status under the EUSS is not yet held
Those who do not have status under the EUSS can only use their EEA BRC after 30 June 2021 on one occasion to travel to and enter the UK. They must then apply under the EUSS within 28 days.
Despite the seeming simplicity of this policy, as such an application will be made after the main in-country EUSS application deadline on 30 June 2021. It appears that using it would mean the person would not have residence rights under the ‘grace period regulations’, and therefore would not have the right to work, rent private accommodation or have access to benefits or public services until such time as status under the EUSS is approved.
It is not explicit under the policy what the position will be for those who have applied under the EUSS but have not yet received a decision. Subject to any further clarification being forthcoming from the Home Office, it would appear the policy intention is for such a person not to be able to enter the UK until their EUSS application has been approved. So if they departed the UK during processing, they would not be able to return using their BRC, nor would they be able to enter the UK if they applied while physically abroad.
The most appropriate course of action will depend on the individual circumstances of the specific case, however other options may be preferable, for example making a late EUSS application from abroad, or applying for an EUSS family permit if eligible.
EEA family permits
The Home Office’s policy on EEA family permits has not been updated. Unless it is revised, EEA family permits will not be valid after 30 June 2021. Anyone holding an EEA family permit will therefore be expected to apply for an EUSS family permit if they need to enter the UK after this date.
If you have any queries about the issues raised in this article, please contact a member of our Immigration Team.
Brexit has substantial implications for immigration between the UK and the EEA/Switzerland (excluding Ireland). Businesses and individuals should ensure they have a plan in place for how to deal with the new immigration requirements that apply for EEA/Swiss (EEA) national workers and their family members from 11 pm on 31 December 2020, and for all other non-EEA national workers from 1 December 2020. Planning should also cover British nationals who are residing in the EEA, or who need to travel to the EEA from 11 pm on 31 December 2020.