On 21st June 2018 the UK Home Office published details of the settled status scheme for EU citizens after Brexit. It means that both EU citizens living lawfully in the UK and UK nationals living lawfully in the EU by 29 March 2019 will be able to stay and enjoy broadly the same rights and benefits as they do now.
In March 2018, the Home Office reached an agreement on EU Citizens rights after Brexit. Full details of the scheme are still subject to parliamentary approval, but the whole cost of the application will be less than the price of a UK passport.
It will become mandatory for all EU citizens in the UK to hold either ‘settled status’ or a ‘temporary residence permit’ following the Brexit implementation period.
It is important to note that ‘settled status’ must be applied for and is not granted automatically.
Eligibility for ‘settled status’
Settled status will be available to EU nationals based on three criteria:
- Be an EU citizen, or a family member of an EU citizen
- Have lived lawfully in the UK for five continuous years (‘continuous residence’)
- Have started living in the UK by 31 December 2020
If residents have lived in the UK for less than five years, they are generally eligible for ‘pre-settled status’ instead. This means they can live and work in the UK for a further five years and will have access to public funds and services on the same basis they have now. Once five years continuous residence has been achieved they can apply for settled status.
Method of applying for ‘Settled status’
There is no need for EU citizens living in the UK to do anything now. There will be no change to the status of EU citizens living in the UK while the UK remains in the EU.
A formal application must be made and approved by UK Visas and Immigration to attain settled status in the UK.
The settled status scheme will open fully by March 2019. The deadline for applying will be 30 June 2021. Applications may be accepted after this date if joining a family member in the UK.
EU citizens who have arrived in the UK by 31 December 2020 but have not yet met the five-year requirement will be granted a ‘grace period’ after the UK’s exit from the EU in which to apply for continued residence in the UK on a temporary basis until they reach the five-year mark and qualify to apply for settled status.
EU citizens must have started living in the UK by 31 December 2020 to be eligible for the scheme.
The Government has emphasised its commitment to swift processing of EU applications via a ‘streamlined system’. The process will only ask applicants to submit a photograph. No bio-metric data will be required. Applicants will be able to scan and send identity documents electronically. The whole process will be done online, although help will be available.
Concerns have been expressed at how the Home Office will resource and service the anticipated demand for settled status applications.
The Government is however pledging to ensure the settled status process will be less demanding on applicants than the current UK Visas and Immigration procedures.
A certain amount of discretion as part of the decision-making process will be allowed. For example, it is expected that applicants will not be required to provide detailed evidence of residence status during undocumented periods – provided the residence requirements appear to have been met overall. Also, applicants will also not have to account for every trip they have taken in and out of the UK.
Data sharing and collaboration with other government agencies such as HMRC will take place to verify residence as a worker. This should reduce some of the evidentiary burden on applicants.
The intention is that the Home Office will work with applicants to help them avoid errors or omissions that could result in delays or refusals.
Right of appeal
In the case of a refused application, applicants will be afforded a statutory right to appeal. This will enable any errors or omissions by the Case Worker to be rectified. There will be access to an independent judicial authority.
Applicants pending appeal will be permitted to remain in the UK until a decision has been made.
Any criminal convictions must be declared by the applicants. Details will be checked against UK security databases as part of the application process.
Healthcare, Pensions and Welfare
EU citizens will still be able to access the National Health Service and will not be required to take out private medical insurance.
It will mean that EU citizens who have paid into the UK welfare system can benefit from what they’ve already put in and continue to benefit from existing coordination rules for future contributions.
Dependents arriving after Brexit will be permitted to join their EU family members(s) in the UK, even if they arrive in the UK after 31 December 2020.
This includes spouses, unmarried partners, children, grandchildren, dependent parents and grandparents. Children born or adopted outside of the UK after the 31 December 2020 will also be covered.
Cost of Application
The fee to apply (subject to approval by Parliament) will be:
- £65 for over 16s
- £32 for under 16s
Permanent residence holders
Those EU nationals who hold UK permanent residence status must still apply for settled status. However the intention is that this will be an easier process than the initial permanent residence application process.
‘Exchanging’ permanent residence for settled status will be subject to ID verification, submission of a photograph, a security check and confirmation on ongoing residence. This will be free of charge.
Losing ‘Settled Status’
People will be able to be absent from the UK for up to five years without losing settled status, more than double the level of absence allowed under current EU law. There will be the same reciprocal protection for UK nationals living in the EU.
EU citizens holding ‘settled status’ may become eligible to apply for British citizenship, provided they meet the relevant criteria.
Professional qualifications (e.g. doctors and architects) will continue to be recognised where these are obtained before the date of the UK’s departure from the EU.
Further Detailed Information
The Government’s full guide to Settled Status applications can be viewed here: Status of EU nationals in the UK - what you need to know . This will be kept up to date by the Government.
The EU Citizens Rights Campaign also provides a useful overview with individual examples.
The Migration Advisory Committee published their draft findings in March 2018. The findings and recommendations of this report are expected to shape the UK’s future immigration system.
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