EU migrants arriving after Brexit will be able to stay in the UK for up to three years in a no-deal scenario, the Government has announced.
Home Secretary Sajid Javid unveiled details of arrangements for the immigration system from March 30, in the event that Britain departs the bloc without an agreement.
For an interim period EU citizens will be able to enter the UK as they do now.
But following the end of free movement, those wishing to stay longer than three months will need to apply for permission under a new European Temporary Leave to Remain scheme.
People who obtain this status will be entitled to live, work and study in the country for a further three years.
EU citizens wishing to extend their stay beyond three years will have to make a further application under the new “skills-based” immigration system, which is due to be introduced from 2021.
Mr Javid said: “If we leave the EU without a deal we will continue to deliver on the referendum result and end free movement once and for all – giving us full control of our borders for the first time in decades.
“However, we need to take a practical approach and minimise disruption to ensure the UK stays open for business.
“That is why we will introduce time-limited transitional arrangements and grant EU citizens coming after March 29 temporary leave.”
But Alp Mehmet, vice-chairman of Migration Watch UK, criticised the plans.
He said: “This is free movement in all but name and is an astonishing concession before the situation of one million Brits in Europe has even been considered.
“Yet again, the government have completely caved in to the business lobby. Most of the public want a reduction in immigration not to see it prolonged for years on end.”
Under the proposals, applications for European Temporary Leave to Remain will be subject to identity, criminality and security checks.
Applicants face being rejected if officials determine that they are a “serious or persistent” criminal or a threat to national security.
The initial three months’ leave to enter will be free of charge, but applications for temporary leave to remain will need to be paid for.
Fees will be set out at a later date.
Non-EU family members who wish to accompany an EU national under the arrangements will need to apply for a permit in advance.
Irish citizens will not need to apply for European Temporary Leave to Remain and will continue to have the right to enter and live in the UK under the Common Travel Area
Mr Javid also emphasised that the policy does not apply to those in the UK before exit day, whose rights to live and work will be protected by the EU Settlement Scheme.
“We want them to stay and value them hugely,” the Home Secretary added.