Staying in the UK after Brexit: What is the EU Settlement Scheme and are you affected?

The UK has left the EU and is now in the ‘transition period’. This means that the UK and EU have until 31 December 2020 to agree new rules of how they work together.

An important issue for EU citizens, as well as citizens of Switzerland and EEA countries such as Norway, Iceland and Liechtenstein, is the need now to apply for immigration status to continue living in the UK.

The EU Settlement Scheme provides the basis for EEA and Swiss citizens resident in the UK and their family members to apply for the UK immigration status which they will require to remain in the UK.

These citizens need to apply to the EU Settlement Scheme to keep living, working, studying, getting benefits and using NHS services in the UK after 31 December 2020. It’s free to apply and it’s worth applying as soon as possible, as it can take time for applications to be processed.

You’ll need to apply even if:

  • you’ve been living in the UK for a while – it doesn’t matter how long you’ve been here, you’ll still need to apply
  • you already have a right to reside in the UK and a document proving this, for example a permanent residence document
  • you were born in the UK but are not a British citizen.

Successful applications are given either ‘settled’ or ‘pre-settled’ status. You can apply to change to the former from the latter once you can evidence 5 years’ continuous residence.

The rights to live, work, study, access benefits and use NHS services apply to both kinds of status. However, if you have ‘settled’ status, you can spend up to 5 years in a row outside the UK without losing your status. If you have ‘pre-settled’ status you can only spend up to 2 years in a row outside the UK without losing your status; and you will need to maintain your continuous residence if you want to qualify for settled status.

It is important to note that ‘pre-settled’ status does not count as a ‘right to reside’ for the purposes of welfare benefits. You will need to prove, separately, that you have a ‘right to reside’ in the UK to obtain some benefits. For this you need to be one of the following: employed, self-employed, registered as a jobseeker, financially self-sufficient or a student.

Your family members need to be in the UK by 31 December 2020 to apply for the EU Settlement Scheme. If they’re not in the UK by that date, they can only join you if you have ‘pre-settled’ or ‘settled’ status under the EU Settlement Scheme and your relationship began before 31 December 2020.

Remember that this isn’t the same as British Citizenship. Citizenship might be right for you if you want to get a British passport, leave the UK for as long as you want, vote in general elections or get citizenship for your children if they’re born outside the UK. However, it can be expensive and time-consuming and you can lose citizenship of your home country.

The Home Office have said that just over 2.7 million EU citizens and family members had applied for settled status so far. However, there is concern that many more have yet to apply. If your immigration status will be affected by Brexit please seek specialist advice from a reputable source. For something as important as this there’s no time like the present.

Visit www.gov.uk/settled-status-eu-citizens-families for official advice about the EU Settlement Scheme and to start an application.

Visit www.citizensadvice.org.uk/immigration/staying-in-the-uk-after-brexit/  for broader guidance about staying in the UK after Brexit.

Our thanks to Coventry Citizens Advice (CCA) for submitting this article to us. For more information, contact your local CA offices or visit www.citizensadvice.org.uk.