On 21 June 2018 the government announced further details of the new settled status scheme for EU nationals. These still need to be approved by Parliament.
When can I apply?
The scheme is still in the testing stages. A pilot is currently running for employees of NHS Trusts and Universities in the Liverpool area.
There will probably be a phased roll-out of the scheme and the government expects the scheme to be fully open by March 2019. The deadline to apply is 30 June 2021.
How do I apply?
Applications will be made online. You will need to prove your identity and provide evidence of your residence in the UK. If you would prefer not to send away your passport/ID card, you will be able to use an app to upload this. However, at the current time this app only works on Android phones (not iPhones).
The government will automatically check HMRC and DWP records for proof of residence. If these are inconclusive then you will be invited to provide further documentary evidence. There will be a list of preferred evidence and then alternative acceptable evidence of residence. The government has said it will take a flexible approach, but, of course, it remains to be seen how this will be implemented in practice.
Finally a criminal record check is required. Criminal conduct will be treated differently depending on whether it occurred before or after 31 December 2020, with stricter rules applying after this date.
Will I have to prove I have been exercising EU Treaty rights?
The government has said that to obtain settled status you just need to have been living in the UK for five years. They will be looking to grant applications rather than to refuse them.
Whereas students and self-sufficient individuals currently have to provide evidence that they held comprehensive sickness insurance before they can get a permanent residence document, this will not be required for the new settled status.
What if I have not been in the UK for five years?
In this case you will generally get 'pre-settled status' instead. The government has said that this will allow you to stay in the UK for a further five years, after which you are expected to apply for settled status.
How much will it cost?
The cost will be £65 per person for those age 16 or over and £32.50 for under-16s.
Anyone who already has a permanent residence document, or indefinite leave to remain, can apply for free. There is also no charge to move from pre-settled, to settled status.
Applicants will not be required to pay the Immigration Health Surcharge.
What documentation will I receive to prove my new status?
You will not receive a physical document. Instead you will be able to get proof of your status through an online service. Presumably the Home Office will update its guidance on right to work and right to rent checks accordingly.
What will my rights be?
Settled status will mean you are eligible for public services such as healthcare and schools, public funds and pension.
Once you have settled status, you can leave the UK for up to five years and return again with your settled status intact.
What about EU nationals arriving after we leave the EU?
The agreement with the EU provides for an 'implementation period' from 30 March 2019 to 31 December 2020. EU nationals who arrive during this time will be expected to apply for 'pre-settled status' and then eventually progress to settled status as appropriate.
What about non-EU EEA nationals?
The government intends for the scheme to also apply to nationals of Iceland, Lichtenstein, Norway and Switzerland, but this still needs to be formally agreed.
What about Irish nationals?
Irish citizens may choose to apply for settled status, but they will not be required to do so as they have a separate right of residence in the UK that is not related to EU membership.
Should EU nationals wait for the new scheme?
The government has been keen to encourage EU nationals to wait for the new settled status scheme to be rolled out to them, and the employer toolkit repeatedly emphasises 'don’t rush, you have until 30 June 2021 to apply.'
However, anyone with evidence that they have already been exercising EU Treaty rights in the UK for over five years and who wishes to naturalise as a British citizen, would be well advised to consider acting now. This is because the new settlement scheme does not allow for the backdating of indefinite leave to remain. Those who obtain this status under the new scheme, will then need to wait for at least 12 months before they can apply for naturalisation (unless married to a British national). However, it is possible to apply for a permanent residence card now and have this backdated, allowing a naturalisation application to be made before we leave the EU.
What should employers be doing?
The Home Office has launched a toolkit to help employers, industry groups and community groups in the UK communicate the EU Settlement Scheme to their staff. The toolkit can be accessed here.