The introduction of the new settled immigration status will mark the end of freedom of movement for EU citizens in the UK. So, who can apply and when; and what does the application process look like?
Brexit and the movement of people: what do we know?
- EU nationals currently benefit from freedom of movement and can come and live and work in the UK without restriction. There will be no change to the rights of EU citizens and their families until 1 January 2021.
- EU nationals continuously living in the UK for 5 years by 31 December 2020 will be able to apply for “settled status” (indefinite leave to remain).
- EU nationals arriving by 31 December 2020 but who will not have been continuously living in the UK for 5 years will be allowed to stay until they reach the 5 years – then they will also be able to apply for “settled status”. In the intervening period, they may apply for and be granted temporary “pre-settled status”.
- There is a deadline of 30 June 2021 for those eligible to apply for settled status or pre-settled status. Individuals must apply – status is not automatically conferred.
- EU nationals arriving in the UK after 31 December 2020 will have to either hold or have applied for immigration status in accordance with the rules applying at that time. To find out more read our earlier blogs here and here.
Who can apply for settled status?
EU citizens (and family members of an EU citizen) continuously resident in the UK prior to midnight on 31 December 2020 can apply for settled or pre-settled status. Five years continuous residence is required for full settled status. This means that they must have been in the UK for at least 6 months of each of the five years (although there are some exceptions for periods of up to 12 months e.g. for military service; work postings).
Individuals already with a valid and documented right of permanent residency or indefinite leave to remain will still need to apply for settled status (but there will be no cost involved).
Family members joining an EU citizen already resident in the UK by 31 December 2020 can apply for settled status. Close family members (as defined) resident overseas on 31 December 2020 but whose relationship existed prior to then and subsists when they come to the UK, can also apply.
Irish citizens will not need to apply but their family members from outside the UK and Ireland will.
The EU settlement scheme applies to nationals of the 27 EU countries. Rights for citizens of Norway, Iceland, Liechtenstein and Switzerland are still being negotiated; the government intends to make similar provisions for them.
When can an application for settled status be made?
The EU settlement scheme has already opened in a phased way and is intended to be fully operational by March 2019. The deadline for applications is currently stated to be 30 June 2021.
Limited settlement pilot schemes are running from 1 November until 21 December 2018. These are open to workers in the health and social care sectors and to individuals working for certain higher education establishments. Details are available here.
How much does it cost?
An application will cost £65 for over 16s and £32.50 for a child under 16.
Those who already have valid permanent residency documentation will be able to exchange that for settled status for free. An application for settled status which follows an application for pre-settled status will also be free, provided payment was made at time of applying for pre-settled status.
What is the application process?
The government wants to make applications for settled status as straightforward as possible. It will be a “streamlined, quick and user friendly” process, done on-line with telephone support. The feedback from the pilot is that the application takes on average 14 minutes to complete.
Those applying will need to go through three steps:
- Prove identity and nationality, by submitting an identity document and recent photo.
- Prove continuous residence in the UK. Existing government data (e.g. National Insurance number from HMRC / DWP) will usually be used to confirm length of residence.
- Declare any criminal convictions / undergo conduct checks against UK and overseas criminality and security databases.
Successful applicants will be sent an email confirming their status and the date it was granted, with a unique reference number. This reference number will be their proof of status; no physical document will be provided.
What will having settled status mean?
Anyone with settled status will be able to continue to live and work in the UK. It will also mean that they will be eligible for:
- Public services, such as healthcare, housing, schools;
- Public funds such as benefits and pensions;
- British citizenship, if they meet the requirements and want to apply.
They will also be able to travel in and out of the UK; and bring family members to the UK after 31 December 2020.
Settled status: what do employers need to do?
The government has said that employers are not required to communicate details of the EU settlement scheme to their workers; however, it may be helpful from an employee relations perspective to do so. It is important to reassure EU nationals that nothing has changed for now; and to make it clear to them what they need to do to protect their right to continue living and working in the UK. Different communication strategies might need to be devised for different groups of workers, for example EU nationals in the UK; Irish citizens; UK nationals in the EU; and workers being temporarily posted overseas (as this might affect eligibility for settled status – see above). It would be worth highlighting that workers with permanent residency will still need to make an application for settled status.
The government has produced guidance on settled status for employers and an employer toolkit. Workbox users wishing to communicate with their EU workers on settled status might also find our Brexit: FAQs for EU workers helpful.
Cost of settled status applications
Employers may already have been asked by their trade union to meet the £65 application costs. There is no requirement to do so but in some circumstances it might be appropriate, helping to demonstrate an individual’s value to the business.
Right to work checks
The current right to work checks apply until the end of 2020 (EU passport or ID card). After then holders of settled or pre-settled status will use their online immigration profile to prove to their employer their right to work in the UK.