24 November 2020
Tougher criminality rules for EU Citizens
The Home Office have announced tougher border controls for EU citizens entering the UK from the 1st January 2021.
The new criminality rules will be enforced when free movement ends, and the UK officially leaves the EU. The government has introduced new criminality rules which will purportedly make the country a safer environment and implement a firmer and fairer immigration system that treats everybody equally.
The UK currently follows EU regulations on criminality. It permits EU ex-offenders to reside in the UK even where they would have been rejected based on non-EU visa criminality requirements. Existing EU rules enable the Home Office to restrict a person’s free movement rights if it can be shown that they hold a genuine, present, and sufficiently serious threat which affects a fundamental interest of society.
Changes to the law
From 1st January 2021, foreign criminals will face tougher border controls. The Home Office have announced that those who have been sentenced to at least a year in prison will be barred from entering the UK.
The new firmer approach to the immigration system has been designed to treat all citizens equally, regardless of EU citizenship. All offences will be considered whether they have been committed in the UK or overseas. Other changes include the following:
- The Home Office will review on a case-by-case basis foreign criminals who have been sentenced to less than a year in prison. The Home Office will consider the individual’s full criminal history and personal circumstances including, for example, family ties in the UK. As such, an individual could still be barred from entering the UK even if they have served a sentence for less than one year. This is part of the new immigration system which has given the Home Office discretion to decide who can enter the UK based on their personal history and circumstances.
- Foreign criminals who may not have received a prison sentence yet, or who may not have served any time in prison, may also be barred from entering the UK if:
- They are a persistent offender or cause serious harm, for example, sexual offences, or
- It has been decided that their presence in the UK is not beneficial to the public good, or
- If an individual has any type of criminal conviction from the past 12 months and are seeking to enter to the UK for the first time.
Who is not affected by the new changes?
EU citizens protected by the Withdrawal Agreement (for example, those who have either pre-settled or settled status under the EU Settlement Scheme) are not covered by the changes. However, if an individual protected by the Withdrawal Agreement commits a crime, for example a crime which results in a prison sentence of at least a year from the 1st January 2021, whether in the UK or overseas, their current status could be revoked.
The UK government is enforcing these changes so that the UK’s immigration system becomes more secure and safer for those living within the UK, which extends to the police having more powers to govern the changes and protect the public. The extended powers can be found under the Extradition Bill which is currently in the last stages of receiving Royal Assent.
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