EU nationals allowed into the UK as visitors for interviews, minister confirms

Experts urge European candidates to travel with documentary evidence, and remind employers they now face extra steps if a job offer is made

EU jobseekers travelling to the UK will not be detained or refused entry if they are visiting for an interview, the Home Office has confirmed.

The clarification comes after a number of Europeans travelling to the UK for interviews were reportedly detained at airports or sent to immigration removal centres after trying to enter without visas.

In a written statement earlier this week, Kevin Foster, under secretary of state for future borders and immigration, said individuals were allowed to travel to the UK under the visitor route for a job interview, but if successful would have to leave the country and re-enter through a route that allowed them to work.

He added that any travel to the UK must be in line with the current Covid health regulations, and confirmed that Irish citizens did not require entry clearance when seeking or starting work in the UK.

When asked about how many EU citizens had been detained or deported for being in the UK without a work visa since the rules changed on 1 January, Foster could not give an answer, but said a statement was being prepared and would be provided as soon as it was available.

The questions were asked by Labour MP Hilary Benn, following reports in the Guardian that Europeans traveling to the UK for job interviews were among the EU citizens sent to immigration removal centres and held in airport detention rooms.

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Chetal Patel, partner at Bates Wells, said that, as well as attending interviews, European citizens were allowed to visit the UK for meetings.

But, given recent events, Patel recommended those travelling to the UK for job interviews come with documents confirming the reason for their trip. “A letter from a prospective employer inviting the individual for an interview confirming the date/time of the interview would work,” she said.

She also outlined that it would be “important” that individuals can show that they will be leaving the UK at the end of the visit, suggesting proof of a return flight would be a good idea.

“EU nationals have felt the wrath of the hostile environment and it’s been unpleasant. A hard-line approach has been taken, which appears to have been disproportionate. It doesn’t paint a pretty picture,” she said.

Karendeep Kaur, manager at immigration law firm Migrate UK, warned this sort of confusion would not help the UK’s labour market.

“With the added complications of Brexit and Covid-19, [UK Visas and Immigration] should focus on the UK’s labour shortages, which will not be assisted if they continue to treat EU citizens seeking employment with disregard,” Kaur said, adding that the UK and EU needed to communicate better and “articulate their intentions clearly”.

Kaur also highlighted that, if offered a job, EU nationals now needed to return to their country of origin and obtain the correct visa to work in the UK, which could mean meeting specific entry requirements for particular visa routes and passing criminality checks.

“The rest of the world is aware that work is not permitted without the relevant entry clearance obtained prior to travel. They have had years of practice and knowhow,” Kaur said.

“However, this is a very new situation for the EU and UK businesses alike; clear communication between both parties would save a lot of time, effort and distress.”