This is the first in our series of Q&As with our immigration specialist Kezia Daley, debunking common misconceptions around EU citizens’, and their families’, rights to remain in the UK after Brexit, and providing clarity on what steps need to be taken now. This week the spotlight is on the EU Settlement Scheme.
What is the EU Settlement Scheme?
The government introduced the EU settlement scheme in preparation for Brexit. The initial date was the 29th March 2019 which was extended to 31 October 2019. The settlement scheme was introduced to ensure EEA and Swiss citizens and their eligible family members living in the UK have the right to protect and remain in the UK after the UK leaves the EU.
The EU Settlement Scheme applies to EEA and Swiss citizens: Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, Croatia, Republic of Cyprus, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Iceland, Ireland, Italy, Latvia, Liechtenstein, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden and Switzerland.
Can you clarify the UK’s current position? I am confused!
The UK is still a member of the EU until we leave on the 31 October 2019. Currently the UK and the EU have been negotiating an agreement to take effect as soon as the UK leaves the EU. This is known as the ‘Withdrawal Agreement’. Unfortunately there has been no final agreement reached between the UK and the EU which is why there is a huge level of uncertainty.
If a Withdrawal Agreement is agreed the UK will enter into a transitional period from the date after the UK leaves the EU until 31 December 2020 which may be extended to 29 March 2022. During this time EU nationals and their family members can still come and go on the same basis as is currently in place. However it is advisable for all EU citizens to apply under the settlement scheme as early as possible. This will become mandatory if you intend to remain in the UK after Brexit or the end of any agreed transition period.
If the UK leaves Europe without a deal will this affect me?
If no agreement is reached between the UK and the EU, EU citizens and family members will not be able to come to the UK on the same basis as they can currently once free movement has ended. However, EU citizens and their family members who are resident in the UK before the UK leaves the EU (including those who are temporarily absent) will be able to apply under the settlement scheme to obtain ‘settled’ or ‘pre-settled’ status.
What does it mean for me?
- If you are an EU citizen, you and your family members are able to apply to the EU Settlement Scheme to continue living in the UK after 31 December 2020.
- The EU Settlement Scheme allows you and your family members to apply for permission to continue to live, work and study in the UK. If you are not entitled to settled status now you will be eligible to settle after five years.
This means that you continue to be eligible for:
- Public services, such as healthcare and schools
- Public funds and pensions
How do I know if I can apply?
You need to apply if you are an EU citizen or a non-EU family member of an EU citizen. This includes those who are in the UK with a permanent residence document.
If you have been a resident in the UK for five continuous years or more you will be eligible for settled status. If you have been a resident for less than five continuous years you will be eligible for pre-settled status.
Irish citizens do not need to apply to the scheme to protect their rights in the UK however your family members will need to.
What about my family?
- If you are an EU citizen living in the UK, you and your family members can apply to the EU Settlement Scheme. Family members do not need to be from the EU; they can come from anywhere in the world (known as non-EU family members).
- Close family members who are not living in the UK by 31 December 2020 can join you in the UK at any point in the future (in the event of a no deal, this date will be 29 March 2022).
How does the application process work?
The application can be accessed online using a computer, tablet or mobile phone: https://www.gov.uk/settled-status-eu-citizens-families/applying-for-settled-status
Is the application straightforward?
The application process can be complicated if you are not computer literate or if you are required to provide further information or supporting documents proving residence in the UK. There are a number of ways to provide evidence of your residence however the Home Office are specific about the evidence which can be relied upon. It is advisable to seek legal advice when making the application to ensure a successful application.
How long does it take?
The process can take anything from 24 hours to 4-5 weeks to get a decision on your application.
What will I get if I am successful?
If you are successful in registering under the EU settlement scheme you are likely to get either pre-settled status of settled status.
- If you receive pre-settled status (also known as limited leave to remain or enter) this means you can stay in the UK for a period of five years. This will allow you to remain in the UK until you are eligible for settled status.
- If you receive settled status (also known as indefinite leave to remain or enter) this means there is no time limit on how long you can stay in the UK.
You will usually be able to apply for British citizenship 12 months after you have received settled status.
Will I get a Residence card if I am successful?
If you are successful you will not get a document confirming your right to live and work in the UK. You will only get a digital proof of your status through an online service. Your family members who are from outside the EU will receive a biometric residence card if they do not already have one.