Is this the last year that Santa can come to the UK without a visa?
On the basis that Santa lives and works in Lapland, he is probably an EEA citizen although at the time of writing, we were unfortunately not able to see his passport to confirm his nationality. If he is an EEA citizen, this means that Santa can still come to the UK under EU free movement rules. However, the Brexit Transition Period ends at 11pm on 31 December 2020, so his position will likely be different next year.
EU Settlement Scheme
As he will be coming to the UK before the end of the Brexit Transition Period, he could make an application for Pre-settled Status under the EU Settlement Scheme. As part of the free online application, he will need to provide evidence he was resident in the UK before the end of this year.
If there are no issues, he would get a 5-year e-visa linked to his passport. However, he would not be able to get Settled Status in the UK in 5 years’ time, if he returns to live in Lapland and his absences from the UK will be more than 6 months in any 12-month period.
Frontier Worker permit
What about the future Frontier Worker permit?
As he lives outside the UK for more than 180 days in any 12-month period, he could be eligible.
He would need be able to show he started working in the UK, whether as an employed or self-employed person, before 31 December 2020 and has come to the UK at least once every 12 months since. He can probably quite easily show this as he comes to work every year and it’s probably unlikely that his work is not considered to be “genuine and effective”.
Depending on how he applies, he might get a digital or physical permit.
Coming to the UK as a visitor
If neither of the above options are suitable, could he come to the UK as a visitor next year?
As an EEA citizen, Santa will still be able to visit the UK without a visa (as a “non-visa national”), even after the Brexit Transition Period has ended. However, if Santa is not an EEA citizen, the above options are not available to him, and if he is not a “non-visa national”, then he must apply for and be granted a visitor visa before coming to the UK.
In any event, he would need to be able to demonstrate that he is coming to the UK as a genuine visitor, and he needs to be very careful that he does not breach the strict rules about what visitors can and cannot do in the UK. For example, he could be breaking the visitor rules if he works in the UK. However, there are specific activities which are expressly permitted, for instance, being a driver on a genuine international route delivering goods between the UK and overseas.
It therefore seems that there will probably be no issues with Santa coming to the UK this year to deliver presents, or indeed in the future; however, it would be sensible for him to obtain appropriate immigration advice to avoid inadvertently being in the UK illegally.
Other items to note
Besides highlighting some of the options which might be open to Santa (and other EEA citizens) to come to the UK, other changes and information you might want to take a note of include:
- The new fees list issued on 1 December 2020. There have been no increase in immigration and nationality application fees; however the upfront Immigration Health Surcharge did increase in October this year to £624 a year per person (in most cases)
- Although the minimum skill level under the Skilled Worker routeis A-level and equivalent or above (down from Bachelor degree under the old Tier 2 (General) route), there are over 100 jobs which the Home Office prohibit UK employers from sponsoring including: receptionist, hotel assistants, and care workers
- The former main Tier 2 and 5 sponsor guidance has gone from being one document to now being split over more than 10 documents, although some of the documents are “route” specific
- Eligible EU and Swiss citizens have been able to apply for Frontier Worker permits since 10 December 2020
- EU free movement rules end at 11pm on 31 December 2020; however there will be a 6-month “grace period” for EEA nationals living in the UK by this date to submit an application under the EU Settlement Scheme by 30 June 2021. As such UK employers cannot insist on seeing proof of an EEA national’s status under the EU Settlement Scheme until after 30 June 2021
- Ahead of the Hong Kong BN(O) visa category going live on 31 January 2021, the Home Office has confirmed that BN(O) citizens and their Dependants granted Leave Outside the Rules at the UK Border have a right to work in the UK – evidence of a valid right to work ought to be obtained and retained
First published: 17 December 2020
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