On June 21, 2018, the government of the United Kingdom (UK) issued a “statement of intent” that provides further details on how citizens of the European Union (EU) and their family members can continue to live in the UK after Brexit. A high-level summary of the proposed scheme is provided below. However, the following initial points should be noted:
- The scheme is still subject to approval by Parliament, and before it is finalized the government aims to consult with user groups and other stakeholders.
- The EU may insist that other changes be made as part of the ongoing Brexit negotiations.
- The scheme does not currently apply to citizens of Iceland, Lichtenstein, Norway, and Switzerland, whose right to remain in the UK after Brexit is still being negotiated. It is likely that an agreement will be reached and the scheme will also apply to citizens of those countries.
- The implementation of the scheme is subject to the Brexit process being completed and the UK formally leaving the EU.
The statement of intent introduces the “EU Settlement Scheme” and confirms that
- EU citizens and their family members who have been continuously resident in the UK for five years by December 31, 2020, will be eligible to apply for “settled status,” which will allow them to stay indefinitely in the UK.
- EU citizens and their family members who arrive in the UK by December 31, 2020, but who have not yet been continuously resident in the UK for five years, will be eligible to apply for a “pre-settled status.” This will enable them to stay in the UK until they have reached the five-year threshold, after which they would become eligible to apply for settled status.
- EU citizens and their family members with settled status or pre-settled status will have the same access as they currently do to healthcare, pensions, and other benefits in the UK.
- Close family members (e.g., a spouse, civil partner, durable partner, dependent child or grandchild, or dependent parent or grandparent) living overseas, will still be able to join an EU citizen who is living in the UK as of December 31, 2020, where the relationship existed on December 31, 2020, and continues to exist when the person wishes to come to the UK.
The applicant will therefore be issued with settled or pre-settled status depending on the applicant’s length of “continuous residence”. Continuity of residence will be broken if a person is absent for more than six months during any 12-month period. In some cases, a single period of up to 12 months’ absence will be permitted, if it is caused by an important reason such as pregnancy, childbirth, serious illness, or an overseas posting.
Criteria for Applying for Settled or Pre-settled Status
Applicants will need to meet the following three requirements in order to make an application:
- Proof of identity. A valid passport, national ID document, or UK Biometric Residence Permit (BRP) will be required to establish proof of identity. Alternative evidence may be accepted in compassionate or compelling circumstances.
- Eligibility. Each applicant will need to provide evidence to confirm residence in the UK, and if the applicant is a family member of an EU citizen, evidence of the relationship.
- Suitability. Background checks will be carried out on the UK criminality and security databases and overseas records where appropriate.
It will be a digital system and the online form will be short, simple, and user-friendly. In the majority of cases, applicants will only need to demonstrate that they are an EU citizen or the family member of an EU citizen, in addition to their continuous residence in the UK. A hard copy of the application form will also be available for anyone who does not have access to a computer.
There will be a phased rollout of the new application system starting in late 2018, and the scheme will be fully open by March 30, 2019. Those who are resident in the UK by December 31, 2020, will have until June 30, 2021 (i.e., six months after the UK formally leaves the EU) to make their applications.
In an effort to streamline the process and reduce the number of required documents, the government has also confirmed as follows:
- Existing information and records held by Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs (HMRC) and the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) will be used to confirm a person’s continuous residence and whether it amounts to five years.
- If necessary, an applicant will be able to upload further documentary evidence of his or her continuous residence in the UK.
An application will cost £65.00 for adults and £32.50 for children under the age of 16.
However, if a person already holds a permanent residence document issued under The Immigration (European Economic Area) Regulations 2016 (EEA Regulations), this can be exchanged for settled status free of charge. Applications will still be subject to criminal and security checks, as well as checks to confirm that their existing status has not lapsed. Holders of pre-settled status will also not be required to pay any fees when applying for settled status.