EU nationals arriving in the UK before the end of next year will be able to apply to stay for three years in the event of a no-deal Brexit.
The government has announced that a temporary Leave to Remain scheme would replace free movement.
This would allow EU nationals who arrive before the end of 2020 to stay until December 2023.
The government had hoped to completely end the free movement of EU nationals under a no-deal Brexit.
But free movement of EU citizens will not automatically end as a result of a no-deal Brexit, because EU law will continue to apply until its legal foundation is repealed.
The new scheme will be open to European Economic Area and Swiss citizens – as well as “their close family” – who move to the UK for the first time, the government said in a statement.
It added that the online applications process “will be simple and free”.
Meanwhile, EU citizens who are already living in the UK have until 31 December next year to apply to the EU Settlement Scheme.
Announcing the new scheme, Home Secretary Priti Patel said the “tougher checks and ending free movement as it currently stands” will help the UK in “taking back control of our borders”.
“In the future, we will introduce a new points-based immigration system built around the skills and talent people have – not where they are from,” she added.
The government also announced:
- Blue passports for UK citizens will be introduced later this year
- And a “tougher UK criminality threshold” will be applied for citizens of the European Economic Area (who wish to come to or remain in the UK
Last month, the UK government announced EU free movement rules would end immediately if there was a no-deal Brexit on 31 October.
This would have affected the rights of any EU citizens arriving in the UK from November onwards.
At the time, Liberal Democrat home affairs spokesman Sir Ed Davey accused the government of being “irresponsible and reckless”.
And the 3million group, which campaigns for the rights of EU citizens living in the UK, said it could mean “millions of lawful citizens” would have their legal status removed “overnight”.
However, it emerged at the weekend that the plan had been dropped because the government could have been challenged in the courts.
Migration experts had said the UK could not end freedom of movement from the EU on Brexit day because it has no system to work out who is legally in the country.
The EU settlement scheme aims to register EU nationals in the UK which, if they wish to stay in the country, they must do.
As of July, only a third of the estimated 3.3 million UK-based EU citizens had applied, leaving more than two million unregistered.