With no clear idea of if or when the UK will be leaving the EU, it is understandably a troubling time for European nationals and their employers. So, what are the options?
European nationals and their family members currently in the UK may have the option to apply under the current system for a permanent residence document. This usually involves providing evidence that the European national has spent a continuous period of 5 years in the UK. However, we note that in comparison to the EU Settlement Scheme, the application process for permanent residence is in excess of 80 pages and involves submission of long and cumbersome evidentiary requirements.
Those unable to obtain permanent residence should apply for settled or pre-settled status under the EU Settlement Scheme, which opened fully on 30 March 2019 to EU nationals and their family members who wish to continue living in the UK after the 20 June 2021 deadline. The transition period will run until 31 December 2020, during which free movement will continue and EU nationals will be able to freely enter the UK and work.
Settled status will be equal to permanent residency and applies where you have lived in the UK continuously for at least 6 months in any 12-month period for 5 years in a row. You will need evidence of this when you apply. Once you have been granted settled status, you will have the right to stay in the UK for as long as you like. You will also be able to apply for British citizenship, work and study in the UK, use the NHS and access public services such as benefits and pensions. However, your settled status will lapse should you leave the UK for more than 5 years, so it is something that needs to be maintained.
You should apply for pre-settled status by 30 June 2021 if you have not lived continuously in the UK for 5 years by 31 December 2020. Once you have reached 5 years continuous residence, you must apply to switch to settled status. Currently, the Home Office have informed that changing your status from pre-settled to settled status will be free. One you have been granted pre-settled status, you will be able to work in the UK, use the NHS, enrol in education and access public funds. The only difference to settled status is that you are unable to apply for British citizenship.
The application fee under the EU Settlement Scheme was previously £65 for adults and £32.50 for children. However, now that the scheme has opened fully, there is no application fee. Anyone who has already applied and paid a fee in the period before 30 March 2019 will receive a refund. The refund process has not yet been published.
If the UK leaves the EU with no deal, the deadline for settled or pre-settled status applications is 31 December 2020 – the end of the transition period.
Once the individual has either a permanent residence document/settled status, the individual must wait a further 12 months (unless married to a British national then he/she can apply immediately) before applying for citizenship. In order to apply for citizenship, you must:
Although the Government voted to reject a no-deal Brexit, this vote is not legally binding, which means that the UK could still leave the EU without a deal unless a further extension is agreed with the EU. With a definitive departure date undetermined, the UK’s position in the event of a no deal Brexit remains that free movement of people will end. For a transition period only, EU citizens will still be able to enter the UK to visit, work or study after the exit date. However, for stays longer than 3 months, European Temporary Leave to Remain will be required, which is valid for a further 3 years.
EU citizens who choose to apply for European Temporary Leave to Remain will be subject to identity, criminality and security checks before being granted permission to stay for a further 3 years. Non-EU family members who wish to accompany an EU citizen under these arrangements will need to apply in advance for a family permit. However, once the visa expires after 3 years the individual must leave the country or apply for a visa under the new points-based system (for which the Government has pledged to provide further information) closer to the time. Time spent in the UK will not count towards settled status or permanent residence.
The initial 3 months’ leave to enter for EU citizens will be free of charge but applications for European Temporary Leave to Remain will need to be paid for. Fees will be set out at a later date.