I am planning to move to the UK. I am a non-UK EU citizen and I will be a researcher funded by a grant (the grant is coming not from the UK). I am arriving before January 2019, i.e. before Brexit.

My spouse (non-EU citizen) will join me in the UK and they will want to be able to work in the UK. As far as I understand, while the UK is in the EU I could do this as follows:

  • Spouse gets EEA family permit, valid for 6 months.
  • After spouse arrives in the UK to join me, they can apply for a UK residence card, valid for 5 years.

After the UK leaves the EU (29 March 2019), according to https://www.gov.uk/apply-for-a-uk-residence-card a UK residence card is no longer valid. Is there any reason for my spouse to arrive to the UK before 29 March 2019? They might be able to arrive some time before that, but this is not for sure. Does it make any difference for any permit issues? Will the EEA family permit be affected after 29 March 2019?

It seems that after UK leaves the EU (https://www.gov.uk/guidance/status-of-eu-nationals-in-the-uk-what-you-need-to-know) my spouse would be able to apply to stay until they have been in the UK for 5 years. Does this system allow them to work in the UK?

  • 2
    Nobody can answer this definitely. (Even if there were specific guidance, googling "Windrush" would probably tell you what that's worth.)
    – Louis
    May 10, 2018 at 10:54
  • It appears that most likely there will be some transitional arrangement allowing those who arrived before the departure date to retain a right to live and work in Britain. The details of the transitional arrangement are unclear, however; it might be burdensome and expensive or it might not. On the other hand, there's still a chance, however small, that the UK will remain in the freedom-of-movement regime for some time after it leaves the EU, possibly indefinitely. In my opinion, chances are good that your spouse will be able to work for the duration of your grant, but it's just an opinion.
    – phoog
    May 10, 2018 at 14:38

2 Answers 2


Because no definite answers exist yet, I suggest that you make your plans allowing for a risk that you or your spouse or both may not be able to stay in the UK after it leaves the EU.

For me, that means putting money aside as a kind of insurance in case you have to face the cost of relocating again in a year or so, or alternatively that you have to apply for expensive residence permits.


In addition to user16259's answer that there is a risk which is at the moment totally unknown, the earlier your spouse arrives in the UK, the better. The longer your spouse is there before laws change, the better. And keep everything documented. You might be living in the UK for thirty years, and then some pencil pusher in the Home Office decides that it is much easier to find and remove legal immigrants who haven't documented their lifes over the last thirty years than illegal immigrants. As lots of legal immigrants found out at their expense.

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