How will Brexit affect freelancers?

After four long years of talks and negotiations, a Brexit deal was brokered on Christmas eve. 

While the relief of a deal was palpable across the board, the last minute nature of the agreement means that businesses and workers don’t have a whole lot of time to get ready for the changes that will come into effect on 1 January.

We’ve all seen the headlines highlighting some of the main points of the deal, but how exactly will it affect freelancers?

In this piece, we address some of the scenarios that freelancers have been seeking clarity on since details of the agreement were announced. 

Scenario 1: I'm a UK citizen living and working as a freelancer in the EU. Can I stay?

The free movement of people between the UK and Europe will cease on 1 January 2020. This means that UK citizens will no longer have an automatic right to live and work in EU countries.

UK citizens who are already living in an EU country will benefit from specific protections under the withdrawal agreement. 

That being said, UK citizens living throughout the EU are being urged to check the specific rules laid out by the countries they’re residing in, as they may be required to apply for residency, fill out new documents or fulfill new requirements, such as securing work. 

If you’re a UK national living in the EU, I’d recommend checking out this page for further information and guidance.


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Scenario 2: I’m a European citizen living and working as a freelancer in the UK. Can I stay?

If you’re an EU citizen (or someone from Switzerland, Norway, Liechtenstein or Iceland) and you’re living in the UK by 31 December 2020, your rights will stay the same until 30 June 2021. 

However, anyone who wishes to continue living and working in the UK after 30 June 2021 will have to become a UK citizen, or apply to the EU Settlement Scheme. The deadline to apply for the EU Settlement Scheme is 30 June 2021.

Both of these options should be looked into sooner rather than later as applications can take time to process. 

It’s worth checking out this self check tool, to understand what you need to do after 31 December 2020. 

It’s important to note that rights of Irish citizens will remain unaffected due to the Common Travel Area.

Scenario 3: I want to move to the UK to work as a freelancer. Can I still do so after 2020?

To answer this question, it’s best to first point out the new immigration system that the British Government is set to introduce in January 2021. 

The system is a points based one, which all foreign citizens (except Irish nationals) will have to adhere to.

The system enables government officials to determine whether or not a person has the capacity to make a viable economic contribution to the UK economy based on their skill sets.

Applicants will need over 70 points to be eligible for a visa. These points are garnered by applicants who fit a number of government criteria. 

These criteria include having a good level of English, having a job secured with an approved sponsor, having a STEM related PHD, a job offer in an occupation where there are job shortages etc.

What else? 

Applicants will have to meet a minimum salary threshold. This is set at 25,600 or whatever the going rate is for their occupation (also known as the ‘specific salary requirement’). Again, it’s worth noting here that migrants who don’t meet the minimum salary threshold may still qualify for a visa if they work in an area that has staff shortages in the UK or they have a PHD in a specific area. 

The good news for freelancers and self employed?

Both parties will be less impacted in comparison to those in other professions as they can continue to apply for visas under existing rules and will not be required to be sponsored. 

I repeat, freelancers and self-employed will not be required to be sponsored.

Finally, visas will not be required by visitors, including EU citizens, who wish to come to the UK for a period of six months. However, this is not a working visa and therefore visitors may not work for the duration of their stay.


Visas for work specific trips

As highlighted above, freelancers will face different challenges depending on where they live and work.

Provisions in the Brexit trade deal mean that many EU countries will now require UK citizens to have working visas for work specific trips. If left unchanged, these provisions will have a massive effect on freelancers like models, dancers, film and TV workers, who travel for work on a regular basis. Applying and securing visas takes time and money. Depending on the job, this may or may not be an added cost that clients decide to cover.

This week pressure has been mounting on the government to reexamine this issue due to the damaging effect it will have on individuals working across a range of creative industries. 

How can you make your voice heard? 

We all want this issue to be taken seriously and amended accordingly. You can voice your concerns by signing relevant petitions, contacting your local politicians etc. No action is too small. 

A final note to flag is that the completely visa free travel from the UK to the EU will end in 2022, at which point individuals will need to pay a visa waiver fee and fill in an ETIAS form before departure.

How will Brexit affect freelancers?

Brexit will no doubt have an impact on freelancers, but if we’ve learned one thing in 2020, it’s that all crises have silver linings.

Brexit coupled with Covid-19, will force many businesses to reevaluate their offerings and operations heading into 2021 and as a result, many will choose to restructure their work forces. 

The pandemic highlighted the reality that freelancers are a cost-effective, flexible and highly skilled alternative to full-time workers and it comes as no surprise that we witnessed a surge in businesses onboarding freelancers across a range of industries in 2020.

The future of work is remote and freelancers are experts in this field. 

Freelancers have an opportunity to capitalise on this reality in 2021.


​Like this piece? Checkout our articles Financial Predictions for Freelancers in 2021 and Top Tips For Freelancers in 2021.