The EU Settlement Scheme enables qualifying nationals to continue their residence in the United Kingdom (UK), after the UK leaves the European Union (EU) on 31 October 2019 (also known as ‘Brexit’) and the transitional period. Since the Scheme was officially opened, we have received a huge number of questions about EU Settlement Scheme applications. So much so, that we decided to put together the key questions and answers in this post.
If you have any further questions that you would like us to answer, drop me a line at [email protected]. And feel free to add your comments about the EU Settlement Scheme application process below, so that we can help others as they begin this part of their journey.
Who can apply to the EU Settlement Scheme?
Nationals from within the EU, EEA and Swiss citizens who are currently living, working or studying in the UK will need to submit an EU Settlement Scheme application in order to protect their rights so that may continue to live in the UK after the UK leaves the EU.
If you have family members, living in the UK, who are nationals from outside of the EU, EEA and Switzerland, they will also need to apply to the Scheme.
More specifically, you may submit an EU Settlement Scheme application if:
- You are a family member of an EU, EEA or Swiss citizen;
- You are the family member of a British citizen and you lived in an EEA Member State together, where the British citizens had exercised their Treaty rights;
- You are the family member of a British citizen who also has EU, EEA or Swiss citizenship and who lived in the UK as an EU, EEA or Swiss citizen before getting British citizenship;
- You used to have an EU, EEA or Swiss family member living in the UK;
- You are the primary carer of a British, EU, EEA or Swiss citizen; or
- You are the child of an EU, EEA or Swiss citizen who used to live and work in the UK, or the child’s primary carer;
If the EU Settlement Scheme application is successful, you will be given either pre-settled or settled status.
The Mayor of London has helpfully provided an eligibility checker that may assist you.
What is settled status?
To successfully submit an application for settled status, you must demonstrate to UK Visas and Immigration (UKVI) that you:
- Had started living in the UK by 31 December 2020 (or by the date the UK leaves the EU without a deal); and
- Have 5 years’ continuous residence in the UK.
What does the no-deal scenario refer to?
The UK is due to leave the EU on 31 October 2019, extended from 29 March 2019 and 12 April 2019.
Once the UK leaves the EU, and is no longer a Member State, the UK and EU’s relationship will be governed by the Withdrawal Agreement.
The draft Withdrawal Agreement was published on 14 November 2018 and was endorsed on 25 November 2018 by leaders of the European Council. It has yet to be finally agreed.
If, the Withdrawal Agreement is ratified on 31 October 2019, the UK will continue to recognise the rights of EU, EEA, Swiss nationals and their family members until the end of the transitional period at 11pm GMT on 31 December 2020.
However, EU, EEA and Swiss nationals will be permitted to submit their EU Settlement Scheme application until 30 June 2021. To clarify, applications must be made on the basis that you were in the UK prior to 31 December 2020.
In light on the ongoing discussions within the UK Parliament and with the EU, it is possible that the UK’s exit from the EU may be extended further. It is also possible that the UK may not leave the EU at all. The situation remains fluid and we will keep you updated of key events.
Should the Withdrawal Agreement fail to reach formal agreement or adhere to certain EU conditions, the UK will leave the EU in what has been called a ‘no-deal’ scenario. A no-deal Brexit will bring forward the UK’s departure from the EU and the transitional period to 31 December 2020 will no longer apply.
Nevertheless, the deadline for applications for pre-settled and settled status will be 31 December 2020, unless otherwise advised by UK Visas and Immigration.
If there is a no-deal exit from the EU, the Immigration, Nationality and Asylum (EU Exit) Regulations 2019 will come into force.
After the UK’s exit, the rights and entitlements of EU, EEA and Swiss nationals living and travelling to the UK will be limited. The EU Settlement Scheme aims to protect the rights of EU, EEA and Swiss nationals and their family members, who are already in the UK prior to the UK’s departure from the EU.
What is pre-settled status?
Pre-settled status will be given to EU, EEA or Swiss nationals, and their family members, who have lived in the UK for less than 5 years.
To qualify for pre-settled status, you must have started living in the UK prior to the UK’s departure from the EU in a no-deal scenario (which at the time of writing, is still possible) and meet the ‘suitability’ criteria. This refers to UKVI’s criminality checks.
Alternatively, should the UK leave the EU after having ratified the Withdrawal Agreement, then you must have started living in the UK by 31 December 2020.
Who are EU nationals?
The EU countries are:
- Republic of Cyprus
- Czech Republic
- UK (for the purposes of this post, we will refer to UK nationals exercising their Treaty rights in another Member State).
Who are EEA nationals?
Nationals from the EEA includes the above EU nationals as well as Iceland, Liechtenstein and Norway.
What does ‘continuous residence’ mean?
UK Visas and Immigration (UKVI) will look at the period of continuous residence to assess the length of time that a person has lived in the UK.
For instance, a person may wish to submit an application for pre-settled status on the basis of 3 years’ continuous residence, with the expectation that they secure settlement status within the next 2 years. Or they may wish to submit an application for settlement status based on 5 years’ continuous residence.
Continuous residence means you must have resided in the UK continually and can include residence in the Channel Islands or the Isle of Man.
This does not mean that a person is not permitted to have left the UK for holiday or business purposes. However, if the person had resided in the UK and relocated to their home country for over 6 months in any 12 months’ period, before deciding to travel and take up employment in the UK, then the chain of continuous residence is likely to have been broken by the relocation abroad.
UKVI have listed certain circumstances where a lengthy absence may be permitted in EU Settlement Scheme applications. They are:
- One period of up to 12 months for an important reason (for example, childbirth, serious illness, study, vocational training or an overseas work posting);
- Compulsory military service of any length;
- Time you spent abroad as a Crown servant, or as the family member of a Crown servant; and/ or:
- Time spent abroad in the armed forces, or as the family member of someone in the armed forces.
However, you should bear in mind that meeting the absences requirements for settled status does not guarantee that you will meet the absence requirements to naturalize as a British citizen.
In addition, UKVI state that you and your family may apply for settled status if you have less than 5 years’ continuous residence. This will apply in certain situations only, such as if you and your family need to relocate to the EU for work purposes. Nevertheless, we wait to see how this will be consistently applied.
Do I have to apply for pre-settled status before applying for settled status?
No. If you are likely to have lived in the UK continuously for 5 years before the deadline of 31 December 2020, then you may apply for settled status at date. In this scenario, you do not need to apply for pre-settled status first.
Over time, we may find that employers, and various institutions (rightly or wrongly) request sight of pre-settled and settled status documents well before 31 December 2020, as they too come to grips with their immigration compliance requirements.
As such, applying for pre-settled status, rather than waiting to accumulate 5 years continues residence prior to the end of December 2020, may become a necessity.
Does settled status expire?
Settled status allows the holder to remain in the UK indefinitely. But, their settled status will lapse if the holder is absent from the UK for more than 5 consecutive years.
What is the deadline for applications?
The deadline for applying to the EU Settlement Scheme is 30 June 2021.
If, the UK leaves the EU without a deal, the deadline for EU Settlement Scheme applications will be 31 December 2020, unless otherwise advised or published by UKVI.
The primary carer of a British citizen may apply to the Scheme from 1 May 2019.
How do I know if I am eligible to apply to the Scheme as a family member of an EEA national?
You can submit an EU Settlement Scheme application for pre-settled or settled status, if you are related to an EU, EEA or Swiss nationals because you are a:
- Their spouse, civil partner, unmarried partner or in a relationship within them;
- Their child, grandchild or great-grandchild under 21 years old;
- Their dependent child over the age of 21;
- Their dependent parent, grandparent or great-grandparent; or
- Their dependent relative
You must provide evidence of your relationship to the EU, EEA or Swiss national as part of the application. This may include:
- A birth certificate;
- Marriage or civil partnership certificate; or
- A residence card.
As a family member, you may apply to the EU Settlement Scheme prior to the EU, EEA or Swiss national, though you will need to provide documentary evidence of their identity and residence.
Regardless, it can be beneficial and time efficient to apply to submit the EU Settlement Status application at the same time as the EU, EEA or Swiss national. If applying online, it is possible to refer to the UKVI reference for your family member within your own application. This will allow UKVI to link or connect the applications to each other.
Can British citizens apply for pre-settled and settled status?
British citizens are not eligible or required to apply to the EU Settlement Scheme.
Do Irish nationals need to submit an EU Settlement Scheme application?
No. Irish citizens do not need to apply for pre-settled or settled status.
Nevertheless, family members of an Irish citizen may apply to the EU Settlement Scheme, if they wish.
Further, if you are an Irish national and you have a child who is neither an Irish national nor a British citizen, they may apply for pre-settled or settled status in their own right.
I have Indefinite Leave to Remain. Do I need to apply to the Scheme?
Nationals with indefinite leave to enter or indefinite leave to remain under the Immigration Rules are not required to submit an EU Settlement Scheme application.
Nevertheless, UKVI’s guidance states that if you hold indefinite leave and you submit an EU Settlement Scheme application, then providing you meet all of the requirements, UKVI will give you settled status.
What are the benefits of doing so? Well, currently, holders of indefinite leave can travel outside of the UK for up to 2 years at any one time. Any longer and you will lose your indefinite leave status.
If you hold settled status, it may allow you to stay outside of the UK for up to 5 years in one go, without losing your status.
That said, we strongly suggest that you seek immigration advice before taking any significant action that may change your status.
What if I have certified permanent residence status?
If you hold certified permanent residence status, you will still need to protect your rights by applying to the EU Settlement Scheme. This will allow you to continue to exercise your rights of residence in the UK after the UK leaves the EU.
However, the process for applying for settled status will be different from those who do not hold certified status, in that you will not have to evidence continuous residence for a period of 5 years. This is a sensible approach, given that you had already done so when applying to UKVI to have your permanent residence status certified.
Instead, you must submit one of the following:
- A certificate inside your blue ‘residence documentation’ booklet (or pink for Swiss nationals);
- A certificate inside of your passport confirming your status;
- A biometric residence card confirming permanent for non-EU/EEA nationals; or
- A document which states ‘Document Certifying Permanent Residence’.
The EU Settlement Status application must be submitted before 30 June 2021. If the UK leaves the EU without a deal, the application must be submitted by 31 December 2020.
It is also possible to instead apply for British citizenship by 30 June 2021 (or 31 December 2020 if the UK leaves the EU without a deal), if you hold certified permanent residence status.
Can my child apply for pre-settled or settled status?
Your child may apply for pre-settled or settled status. You may also submit an EU Settlement Scheme application on behalf of your child if:
- Your child is under 21 years of age; and
- The child is an EU, EEA or Swiss citizen; or
- You or your spouse or civil partner is an EU, EEA or Swiss national, but the child is not.
As part of the application, your child will need to provide evidence of their status or proof of their relationship to the EU, EEA or Swiss national.
Your child will not be required to provide evidence of their continuous residence in the UK, though UKVI may request such proof when considering the application.
In addition, if you are an Irish national and you have a child who is neither an Irish national nor a British citizen, they may apply for pre-settled or settled status in their own right.
What happens if I cannot join my EEA family member in the UK after the UK after Brexit?
If your EU, EEA or Swiss family member is already resident in the UK by 31 December 2020, but you are not, you may still apply to join them in the UK, if:
- Your family member has either settled or pre-settled status; and
- Your relationship to the EU, EEA or Swiss national began before 31 December 2020; and
- You continue to be a close family member, such as a spouse, civil partner, unmarried partner, a dependent child or grandchild, or a dependent parent or grandparent.
However, if the UK leave the EU without a deal, the deadline for you to join your EU, EEA or Swiss family member in the UK will be 29 March 2022. Nevertheless, the situation remains fluid and therefore subject to change.
Can I take up employment in Europe and still live in the UK?
You may apply for settled status if you are an EU, EEA or Swiss citizen and had lived in the UK, but has now started working in another EU Member State.
In this situation, you will need to evidence that you:
- Have lived and worked or been self-employed in the UK for a continuous period of 3 years prior to your departure; and
- Usually return to your UK once a week.
This applies to employment and self-employment and applications must be submitted from within the UK.
If you are the family member of an EU, EEA or Swiss citizen at the time that the EU, EEA or Swiss citizen starts work or self-employment in another EU Member State, you may also be eligible for settled status.
Is there a fee to apply to the EU Settlement Scheme?
EU Settlement Scheme applications are free. There was an intention, at the announcement of the Scheme, to charge £65 per applicant. And indeed, the fee had been paid by some applicants during the pilot phase.
Thankfully, the fee has since been waived and refunded to applicants, where appropriate.
What happens after I apply to UKVI?
If, after consideration of the EU Settlement Scheme application, UKVI decide to grant you pre-settled or settled stats, UKVI will send you a link to an online service where you may confirm and prove your status.
The link may be given to employers or other institutions to prove your status in the UK.
UKVI will not provide you with a physical Biometric Residence Card (BRP) or document, so it is important that you keep a copy or screenshot of your status for your records.
Conversely, if you are a national from outside of the EU, EEA or Switzerland and do not already have a BRP to evidence your status, you will be given a document to confirm your pre-settled or settled status.
What happens if my application is unsuccessful?
The decision to refuse pre-settled or settled status applications does not carry a right of appeal, though it is possible to request an administrative review.
UKVI will normally contact you if there is incorrect or missing information prior to making a decision, so it is crucial to provide an email address or phone number where you can be reached.
If the application is refused, you may apply again to the EU Settlement Scheme at any time until 30 June 2021, or 31 December 2020, in a no-deal scenario.
Submitting an EU Settlement Scheme application will protect the rights of EU, EEA, Swiss nationals and their family members living in the UK. We have received a number of questions about the Scheme, which we have addressed in this in-depth Q&A post.
Written by Carla Thomas – Managing Director at Thomas Chase immigration.
Thomas Chase Immigration offer immigration assistance to individuals and families.
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If you still have questions or concerns or you would like straightforward immigration advice or assistance with your application to the EU Settlement Scheme or for an EEA family permit, then feel free to contact us.
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