It is estimated that there are around 3.8 million citizens of other EU countries living in the UK, making up about 6% of the country’s population. While the government have repeatedly made assurances that their right to stay in the UK will be protected once we leave the EU, it is understandable for EU migrants to be concerned about their long-term status, especially given the ongoing Windrush scandal.
However, in June this year the government finally gave clearer guidance over what EU citizens will need to do post-Brexit to secure their right to live and work in the UK when they unveiled the EU Settlement Scheme.
What is the EU Settlement Scheme?
The EU Settlement Scheme is the result of a deal worked out between the UK government and the EU to guarantee the rights of EU citizens living in the UK and of UK nationals living in the EU.
The scheme establishes an application system for EU citizens to acquire ‘settled status’, giving them the right to live and work in the UK indefinitely. The application process is intended to be streamlined and user-friendly with the emphasis being on “looking to grant, not for reasons to refuse” settled status. Caseworkers will also have the power to “exercise discretion in favour of applicants where appropriate”.
According to the government’s statement of intent, under the EU Settlement Scheme: “EU citizens living in the UK, along with their family members, will be able to stay and continue their lives, with the same access to work, study, benefits and public services that they enjoy now.”
The scheme is due to be trialled from 28 August 2018 in three Liverpool universities and 12 north-west NHS trusts, after which it will be rolled out across the country in phases later in the year. The government’s intention is that the scheme will be open to everyone from 30 March 2019 (the day after the UK is due to officially leave the EU).
Who is eligible for the EU Settlement Scheme?
To apply for settled status through the scheme, an EU citizen will simply need to have lived in the UK continuously for five years. This applies to current EU citizens living in the UK and will also be open to any EU nationals who move to the UK before 31 December 2020.
There is no requirement to be currently employed or to have been employed during the qualifying period, meaning that students, stay-at-home parents and retirees should all be eligible.
Any EU national who does not have five years’ continuous residence in the UK by the time we leave the EU, or who moves here before 31 December 2020 will be able to apply for ‘pre-settled status’. They will then be able to apply for settled status once they have met the five years residency requirement.
What do you need to prove to secure settled status?
EU nationals will need to satisfy three criteria when applying for settled status through the EU Settlement Scheme:
• Identity – to be satisfied e.g. with a passport or other approved identity documents
• Suitability – criminal and security checks
• That they have lived continuously in the UK for five years
How much will it cost to apply for settled status under the EU Settlement Scheme?
Applications will cost £65 (£32.50 for under 16s) and any EU national who holds documented permanent residence or indefinite leave to remain will be able to exchange this for settled status at no cost.
What will happen to EU citizens without settled status after Brexit?
In the UK government’s statement of intent for the EU Settlement Scheme, it was made clear that there will be no change to EU citizens current rights until 31 December 2020.
What happens after this will likely depend on any long-term agreements the government makes with the EU around immigration and freedom of movement, the results of which are currently impossible to predict.
Therefore, it you are eligible to apply for settled status through the EU Settlement Scheme, it is strongly recommended to do so sooner rather than later.
What happens with all of the above in the event of ‘no deal’ remains to be seen.
For advice on applying for settled status, including what evidence you will need to prove your residence, or help with any other UK immigration visa issues, please get in touch with Vanessa Ganguin.