As of today’s date, we do not yet know what Brexit means for the UK. The UK was due to leave the UK on 29 March 2019. and yet here we are. Let that sink in for a moment. A once politically stable country has now become the victims of party politics as its denizens watch on, feeling more and more powerless over a referendum vote that was supposed to make them feel empowered and optimistic.
And yet, the UK is still a fantastic place to live. So what other positives can we take away from this situation for European Union (EU) nationals and their family members living in the UK? And what is the EU Settlement Scheme?
On 14 November 2018, the UK government reaffirmed, by way of its draft Withdrawal Agreement that EU nationals, and their family members, will continue to have a right of residence in the UK as of 30 March 2019, after the UK leaves the UK.
To add to the uncertainty, the UK’s withdrawal from the EU was extended until 12 April 2019.
To solidify their rights, and confirm the right to stay in the UK after 30 June 2021, European Economic Area (EEA) nationals and their family members must apply for continued residence to the new scheme. That is, the EU Settlement Scheme.
Under the EU Settlement Scheme, qualifying individuals will need to apply for pre-settled or settled status during a transitionary period that will end on 31 December 2020, though the deadline for such applications will end on 30 June 2021.
If a person applies for pre-settled status during the transitionary period, they may remain in the UK and apply for settled status after a period of continuous residence of 5 years.
Pre-settled status is important as it will allow EEA nationals and their qualifying family members to:
- Work in the UK;
- Access the National Health Service (NHS);
- Enrol in education or continue studying;
- Access public funds such as benefits and pensions, if you’re eligible for them; and
- Travel in and out of the UK.
Prime Minister Theresa May had stated in her Brexit Statement, before the House of Commons, that no fee would be payable for pre-settled and settled status applications. In other words, the proposed fee of £65 have been scrapped.
However, if applications are free, it begs the question, how will the Home Office finance the large numbers of caseworkers needed to process the millions of applications in a timely and costly manner? Already there is concern that applicants can only use Home Office’s App on Android to prove their identity. Apple users will have to be patient or ‘borrow a friend’s phone’ according to the Home Office.
The exercise also seems excessive, as EEA nationals and their family members are having to switch their current residence certificates and certified permanent residence cards to pre-settled and settled status documents. Though, perhaps it is an exercise that will allow the Home Office to collect data and statistical evidence.
Should the UK leave the EU in a ‘no-deal’ situation, EEA nationals and their family members will, according to the Government, continue to have a right of residence under the EU Settlement Scheme.
EEA nationals and their family members will have until 31 December 2020 to apply under the EU Settlement Scheme, to protect their status. Further details can be found here: https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/policy-paper-on-citizens-rights-in-the-event-of-a-no-deal-brexit.
That said, it is crucial to note that if there is a no-deal Brexit, only those who have been in the UK by 12 April 2019 may apply to the scheme for pre-settled status. This is correct as of today’s date.
In the event of a no deal Brexit, EEA nationals and their family members seeking entry to the UK will be subject to the UK’s stricter immigration laws. They will no longer have a right to enter the UK as per the EU regulations.
Indeed, the Government had said that in the event of a no-deal Brexit, and as such, the end of freedom of movement:
“EU citizens and their family members arriving in the UK will be admitted under UK immigration rules and will require permission (leave to enter or remain). Unlike EU free movement, this will not be a rights-based system so those who do not hold valid immigration permission to be in the UK will be here unlawfully and may be liable to enforcement action”.
The Government went on to say:
” The details of the UK’s future skills-based immigration system are set out in a white paper published on 19 December 2018. It will take some time to implement this new system, and for EU citizens already resident in the UK to obtain their status under the EU Settlement Scheme. It is important that we allow sufficient time for granting status to resident EU citizens before we start to implement the new skills-based immigration system because until the resident population have been granted status, it will not be possible for employers, universities, landlords and others to distinguish between pre-exit residents who are eligible to remain in the UK on broadly the same terms as now, and later arrivals”.
Hence, the need for an interim arrangement until 31 December 2020. Though whether the Government and Home Office will be ready to implement the new system and processes by that time remains to be seen.
How will this affect you?
For those EEA nationals, and their family members that are already in the UK, it is highly advisable to apply for pre-settled status or settled status during the transitionary period, and certainly before any published deadlines. This will ensure that their UK rights of residency are protected.
For EEA nationals already in the UK, who are separated from their family members, now may be a good time to consider whether their non-European family members should apply for entry to join them in the UK.
What individuals should avoid doing is panicking! Easier said than done! But leaving the UK for more than six months to assess matters from afar, and then returning after Brexit, could have serious implications for EEA nationals and their families.
Similarly, leaving the UK and applying for entry clearance under a work visa or other category under the UK immigration rules may prove harmful to European nationals who have already invested a great deal to the UK, as it could re-set the individual’s continuous residence clock and status.
Brexit has led to uncertainty. Uncertainty about what Brexit is and what it means for the UK. There are also question marks as to whether there will be an agreed Brexit deal or not. Nevertheless, amongst the haze, some clarity has been provided. EEA nationals and their family members will have a continued right of residence under the EU Settlement Scheme. What individuals must avoid, is doing anything that may negatively impact their long term hopes.
UPDATED 3 April 2019.
Written by Carla Thomas – Managing Director at Thomas Chase immigration.
Thomas Chase Immigration offer immigration assistance to individuals, families and organisations.
Liked this blog?
You might also like:
Call to action
Need straightforward immigration advice or assistance with an application under the EU Settlement Scheme, EEA family permit or naturalisation?