What has happened so far?
The UK formally left the European Union on 31 January 2020.
The UK’s immigration and asylum procedures have not changed. The UK is still part of all EU immigration and asylum processes and must obey all EU rules.
What happens next?
The UK is now in a transition period which is scheduled to end on 31 December 2020 (unless there is an extension). Immigration procedures will not change before 31 December 2020, but are likely to change after that. We do not know exactly how things will change yet.
Asylum and refugee information after 31 December 2020
There are currently two sets of rules governing refugees and asylum seekers in the UK: the domestic Immigration Rules and the EU Dublin System.
After 31 December 2020, the UK will no longer be part of the Dublin System. This might mean:
The UK may not be able to return asylum seekers to the first EU country they arrived in
The UK may not have access to the EURODAC fingerprint database used to return asylum seekers to other EU countries
Family reunification rules are likely to change
Family reunification after Brexit
There are currently two routes to family reunification in the UK: the Immigration Rules and the Dublin System. After Brexit family reunification will only be possible via the domestic Immigration Rules. At the moment, the Immigration Rules are more restrictive than the Dublin System.
The UK government is likely to seek a new agreement with the EU after the transition period. However, this agreement will not replicate the Dublin System. The Government is committed to ensuring that unaccompanied children in EU states can join family members in the UK. So far there is no commitment for reunification of adult family members.
The UK Immigration Rules
A refugee’s dependent children aged under 18 and ‘pre-flight’ partner are eligible to join them in the UK
Pre-flight partner means the refugee was in a relationship before leaving their home country; refugees are required to prove this
Unaccompanied refugee children cannot sponsor applications for family members to join them in the UK
Other relatives (dependent adult relatives, adopted children and post-flight family members) can come to the UK but there are restrictive eligibility criteria and application fees
Unaccompanied children can join a ‘family member’ who is seeking asylum or has valid immigration status in any EU state
‘Family member’ includes parents, responsible adults, siblings or other relatives, so is broader than the Immigration Rules
Refugees’ pre or post-flight partners and children aged under 18 are eligible to join them
Unaccompanied children who have been granted Refugee status can sponsor applications for family members to join them
There is no application fee and the qualifying criteria are less restrictive than under the Immigration Rules
The UK will continue to be bound by international human rights obligations under the 1951 Refugee Convention and the European Convention on Human Rights. This means that the UK will continue to honour the rights of refugees not to be returned to countries where they face persecution, the right to work, and the right to education and healthcare.
What does this mean for you?
Nothing has changed yet and it is very unlikely that anything will change before 31 December 2020. We do not yet know exactly how procedures will change after the transition period. It is likely that the UK will no longer be part of the Dublin System and that the domestic Immigration Rules may change.