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Can EU Nationals Come to the UK for a Job Interview Without Restriction?

Any hopes that the Home Office’s hostile environment is a thing of the past will have been extremely disappointed to hear stories in the media about EU nationals who have been detained just for coming to the UK for a job interview. While the extent of the problem is currently unclear, there are now many examples of EU nationals, mainly women, being detained and expelled from the UK. In this article, we will take a look at the rules regarding EU nationals coming to the UK to attend job interviews.

What Has Been Happening To EU Nationals Arriving At UK Airports?

According to recent reports, in one 48 hour period alone, at least a dozen EU nationals (mainly young women) were detained and expelled after arriving at Gatwick airport in May 2021. As if it was not enough to send the individuals back to their port of departure, they were actually driven two hours from the airport and detained in detention centres, such as Yarl’s Wood in Bedfordshire. The detainees were apparently confined to their rooms due to COVID-19. So far, it is known that nationals of Spain, Italy, France, Bulgaria, Portugal, Czechoslovakia, and Greece have been caught up in the action by the border forces. In one case, a French national was held at Edinburgh airport for 48 hours.

The Guardian newspaper highlights the case of 25-year-old María from Valencia, who was under the understanding she and EU nationals like her were free to explore the job market in the UK, especially as she had worked here in the past. In her case, on arrival, she was informed by the UK Border Force that she would be expelled and detained at Yarl’s Wood, even though she offered to pay for a flight to return home on the same day. María ended up being detained for three days at the detention centre, and she was exposed to COVID-19 during that time. She told the paper, “I am still in shock”. After three days, she was released and told to quarantine at her sister’s house in South-East London, with the Border Force keeping her passport. Understandably, she feels as though her freedom was taken from her; “So much time is being wasted…The worst thing was that no one at Yarl’s Wood could tell me what was going to happen. My freedom had been taken away, and I couldn’t get legal advice”.

The Guardian also highlights the case of Eugenia, 24, from Spain, who planned to travel to the UK to secure a job and then to return to Spain to apply for a visa. She then intended to return to the UK to live with her Spanish partner, who has been working with the NHS for four years. As she points out, “I had a return ticket and had filled out an online travel form in which I explained all that”. While this was her plan, what happened was quite different. On arrival in the UK, she was apparently detained in a room with around six other people for one day. Her mobile phone was confiscated too. Following her ordeal, Eugenia says, “I’m not going back….I don’t want to go through that again. The idea of moving to Britain appals me.”

What Has Been The Response To What Happened To These EU Nationals?

There has been widespread condemnation from charities, the legal sector, and MEPs regarding the behaviour of the Home Office towards EU nationals. Dacion Cioloș, president of Renew Europe, said, “Sending young EU nationals to immigration detention centres is grossly disproportionate and breaches the spirit of good cooperation we would expect”. Luke Piper, representing the campaign group 3million, said the rules for EU nationals are deeply confusing and believes the UK’s border force has acted aggressively; “There is absolutely no need to send someone to Yarl’s Wood if they can stay with family until the expulsion”.

One view from the legal fraternity was expressed by Araniya Kogulathas, a barrister with the NGO Bail for Immigration Detainees, who is quoted by the Guardian as saying, “The Home Office need to explain why exploring the job market or attending an interview justifies refusing EEA nationals entry at the border when immigration rules specifically allow visitors to – among other things – attend meetings, conferences and interviews”.

What Has Been The Response Of The Home Office, And What Is Their Official Policy?

The Home Office has now confirmed that EU nationals should not be detained or refused entry when coming to the UK for a job interview. The matter was clarified somewhat by the Future Border and Immigration Minister, Kevin Foster when questioned by MP Hilary Benn. He said, “A person may come to the UK under the visitor route for a job interview…if successful, they must leave the UK and obtain an entry clearance under a route which grants the right to work in the UK before starting the role”.

This is clarified under the Immigration Rules Appendix Visitor: Permitted Activities, which according to section PA 4, “A visitor may:

  • attend meetings, conferences, seminars, interviews; and
  • give a one-off, or short series of talks and speeches provided these are not organised as commercial events and will not make a profit for the organiser; and
  • negotiate and sign deals and contracts; and
  • attend trade fairs, for promotional work only, provided the visitor is not directly selling; and
  • carry out site visits and inspections; and
  • gather information for their employment overseas; and
  • be briefed on the requirements of a UK based customer, provided any work for the customer is done outside of the UK”.

Final Words

All of this begs the question if visitors are allows to come to the UK and enter for the purpose of the above activities, why did the Border Force act so disproportionately in these cases? Such actions will only serve to undermine the confidence of EU nationals in the UK and hinder the ability of UK business to fill vacancies. We can only hope these are isolated events that are not permitted to happen again.

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