An agreement has been reached between the UK government and the EU on the status of EU citizens and their families in the UK after Brexit. The most important thing is that EU nationals living in the UK and their UK employers do not have to do anything now.
There are three relevant periods that EU citizens and their families should bear in mind:
- pre-Brexit period till 29 March 2019,
- implementation period, also called transition period, from 29 March 2019 till 31 December 2020,
- post-Brexit period after 31 December 2020.
Rights of the EU citizens and their families post-Brexit
- Those who arrived in the UK by 31 December 2020 and have been continuously and lawfully living here for 5 years will be able to apply for settlement and then naturalisation.
- Those who arrived in the UK by 31 December 2020, including before 29 March 2019, but won’t have been living here lawfully for 5 years when the UK leaves the EU, will be able to apply for settlement after 5 years of continuous residence. Those arriving during the implementation period, i.e. after 29 March 2019, will be allowed to stay on the pre-Brexit terms provided they register for stays longer than 3 months.
- According to the new agreement, family members who are living with, or join, EU citizens in the UK by 31 December 2020 will also be able to apply for settled status, usually after 5 years in the UK.
- Close family members (spouses, civil and unmarried partners, dependent children and grandchildren, and dependent parents and grandparents) will be able to join EU citizens after exit, where the relationship existed on 31 December 2020.
EU citizens with temporary or permanent residence permit under the EU law will continue to have the same access as they currently do to healthcare, pensions and other benefits in the UK.
Online application scheme will go live late 2018 and remain open for applications until 30 June 2021, meaning that from 1 July 2021 it will be mandatory to hold settled status or temporary residence permit.
Generally, EU nationals don’t have to apply till after 31 December 2020, unless
- they are anextended family member of an EEA or Swiss nationals
- they want toapply for British citizenship
- they want to sponsor their partner’s visa application under the Immigration Rules
Applying for settlement
The UK government agreed with the EU to keep the same conditions for the EU citizens and their family members that wish to settle in the UK, and even make them more generous than the existing Free Movement Directive, provided they meet certain criteria:
- They arrived in the UK before 31 December 2020
- They can prove 5 years of continuous residence in the UK as a qualified person
- They have no criminal convictions
- They pose no risk to national security
New arrangements will become a part of the UK legislation, and any settlement application submitted in compliance with them cannot be refused by the Home Office.
Settlement application for EU nationals with temporary residence permit will cost the same as a UK passport costs to British citizens, and with permanent permit it will be free. And the old permanent residence permit will be easily exchangeable for a new ILR document without another assessment of residence.
Other good news is that the Home Office is making the application process as streamlined, quick and user-friendly as possible, reducing the amount of evidence to be provided and cancelling fingerprinting. In other words, the UK government will do their best to help EU citizens and their families in the UK to obtain settlement status.
The UK Government is currently working closely with businesses and others to look at how they will be affected by the changes. On 27 March 2018 the independent Migration Advisory Committee (MAC) published their interim report with evidence on patterns of EU migration and the role of migration in the wider economy. They will have to report back by September 2018 with full evidence that will help the UK Government to develop the future immigration system.