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New rules for EU Nationals who wish to visit the UK

With the end of free movement on 31 December 2020, EU/EEA nationals entering the UK as visitors are now governed by the Visit Visa immigration rules applicable to all non-EEA citizens. In this post we look at the new rules for EU/EEA nationals who wish to visit the UK.

EU/EEA Nationals are ‘Non-Visa’ Nationals

EU/EEA nationals are now regarded as ‘non-visa nationals’, which means that they do not need to apply for a visit visa before their visit, but will make their applications to visit the UK upon entry at the UK border point.  It is important to understand that even if a visa has not been issued in advance, when entry is ‘granted’ to the UK at the border point a visitor is bound by the conditions set out in the visit visa rules, even if there is no personal contact with an immigration official, such as when entering through the  ‘e-gates’’.

There are four categories of visitors as set out and defined in the preamble to the Visit Visa rules, as follows:-

“There are 4 types of visitor:

  • Standard visitor: for those seeking to undertake the activities set out in Appendix Visitor: Permitted Activities, for example tourism and visiting family, usually for up to 6 months.
  • Marriage and Civil Partnership visitor: for those seeking to come to the UK to marry or form a civil partnership, or give notice of marriage or civil partnership.
  • Permitted Paid Engagement visitor: for experts in their field coming to the UK to undertake specific paid engagements for up to one month.
  • Transit visitor: for those who want to transit the UK on route to another country outside the Common Travel Area and who will enter the UK for up to 48 hours by crossing the UK border unless Appendix Visitor: Transit Without Visa Scheme applies.”

Here is a link to articles on our website which discuss the visit visa rules further.

Guidance for EU visitors to the UK

The Home Office published guidance for EU nationals who wish to visit the UK on 31 December 2020, which states the following:-

“If you were not resident in the UK by 31 December 2020 and do not have rights under the withdrawal agreement, you will need to meet specific requirements in order to work or study in the UK from 1 January 2021. You will also need to pass relevant checks, including UK criminality checks. You can continue to visit the UK for up to 6 months without applying for a visa and may participate in a wide range of activities, including tourism, visiting family and friends, short term study and business-related activities, such as events and conferences.

Irish citizens’ status continues to be protected as part of Common Travel Area arrangements. Therefore, Irish citizens do not require permission to come to the UK (except in a very limited number of circumstances), and as a result, are not eligible to apply under the new points-based immigration system.

Specific guidance for those looking to visit, work or study in the UK can be found under documents, along with application guidance.”

Note that Irish citizens have a special status in the UK, which will be discussed in a future updating post.

The ‘documents’ link given in the extract above links to a number of pamphlets published by the Home Office giving information to EU nationals about the UK immigration rules they now need to observe; this is the link to the pamphlet which sets out the rules governing EU visitors to the UK.  Note that all UK immigration routes are now being described as part of the ‘points-based system’; this is a bit misleading when considering visitors as no ‘points’ are awarded at any stage of the grant of a visit visa to the UK.

Permitted Activities – Standard Visit Visas

Generally a ‘standard’ visitor will be admitted to the UK for 6 months at a time, and the permitted activities are quite wide, as is set out above in the guidance for EU visitors, broadly beingtourism, visiting family and friends, short term study and business-related activities, such as events and conferences”.  Here is a link to the Immigration Rules (Appendix V – Visitor) which set out the permitted activities for visitors in all the visit categories.

Further guidance for visiting EU businesspersons is given here under the heading ‘Business travel to the UK’ .

Permitted Paid Engagements

Short term paid engagements (less than one month) are permitted under the visit visa rules but the conditions for such visits are very strictly defined.  Again, these conditions are set out in the Immigration Rules (Appendix V – Visitor, see link/s above) under the heading “Additional eligibility requirement for visitors coming to UK for Permitted Paid Engagements”The rules also set out what evidence needs to be shown for the engagement/s.

Entering by ‘e-gate’ is not appropriate in these circumstances; Permitted Paid Engagement visitors should present themselves to Immigration Control with the evidence required for entry.

Marriage/Civil Partnership Visit Visas

According to the guidance issued by the Home Office, after 1 July 2021 EU nationals coming to the UK to marry will now need to enter with permission to marry.  The Immigration rules set the requirements for such visas quite succinctly, as follows:-

V 12.1. The applicant must be aged 18 or over on the date of application.

V 12.2. Unless the applicant is a “relevant national” as defined in section 62 of the Immigration Act 2014, they must, within the period for which they are seeking permission as a visitor:

(a) intend to give notice of marriage or civil partnership in the UK; or

(b) intend to marry or form a civil partnership in the UK;

which is not a sham marriage or civil partnership.

Frequent visits to the UK

EU nationals may have been accustomed to visiting the UK often, however frequent visitors to the UK should pay heed to the following (from the Immigration Rules):-

Genuine visitor requirement

V 4.2. The applicant must satisfy the decision maker that they are a genuine visitor, which means the applicant:

(a) will leave the UK at the end of their visit; and

(b) will not live in the UK for extended periods through frequent or successive visits, or make the UK their main home;…

If there have been frequent visits to the UK, an EU national visitor should be aware that consideration will be given to their immigration history in deciding whether they are, in fact, a genuine visitor if they are questioned by an Immigration Official at the border.  The issue is whether through these visits the individual has in fact made the UK their ‘main home’. However, from the Guidance:-

There is no specified maximum period, which an individual can spend in the UK in any period such as ‘6 months in 12 months’ (as long as each visit does not exceed the maximum period for that visit, normally 6 months). However, if it is clear from an applicant’s travel history that they are seeking to remain in the UK for extended periods or making the UK their home you should refuse their application. 


EU visitors should also note that there are suitability requirements which apply to all entrants to the UK, which are set out in detail in the Immigration Rules at Part 9: grounds for refusal.  These requirements, dealing with matters such as previous criminal and immigration offences, are far more stringent than those previously governing EU nationals before the end of free movement on 31 December 2020.

Contact Our UK Visit Visa Immigration Lawyers

For expert advice and assistance with the new rules governing EU citizens who wish to visit the UK, contact our immigration barristers on 0203 617 9173 or complete our enquiry form below.


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