Since the result of the referendum last summer, the UK government has published a policy paper which sets out UK government’s offer to EU citizens and their families in the UK.
There is no need for EU citizens living in the UK to do anything now. There will be no change to the status of EU citizens living in the UK while the UK remains in the EU. However, many EU citizens, quite rightly are concerned with the uncertainty of the Brexit negotiations and the final arrangement between UK government and European Union, and the following guidance is aimed to help those EU citizens who are working or have family member in the UK in understanding the latest development and their rights during the negotiation and transition period of Brexit.
The cut-off date will be agreed during the negotiations between the UK Government and European Union but as it stands the UK government has made it clear that it shouldn’t be earlier than 29 March 2017 (the date Article 50 was triggered) or later than the date the UK leaves the EU.
Under the latest policy papers at the time of this article, the UK government’s offer for EU citizens is:
- People who have been continuously living in the UK for 5 years will be able to apply to stay indefinitely by getting ‘settled status’. That means these citizens will be free to live in the UK, have access to public funds and services and apply for British citizenship.
- People who arrived before the cut-off date, but won’t have been in the UK for 5 years when we leave the EU, will be able to apply to stay until they have reached the 5 year threshold. They can then also apply for settled status.
- People who arrive after the cut-off date will be able to apply for permission to remain after the UK leaves the EU, under the future immigration arrangements for EU citizens.
- Family dependents who are living with or join EU citizens before the UK’s exit will also be able to apply for settled status after 5 years in the UK. In these cases the cut-off date won’t apply.
It is the UK government’s intention that EU citizens with settled status and temporary permission to stay will continue to have broadly the same access as they currently do to healthcare, education, benefits and pensions.
The UK government plans to launch a scheme for people to apply for settled status before the UK leaves the EU, so people who would like to apply can do so at an early stage.
The UK government is currently looking at what the future immigration system for EU citizens arriving after the cut-off date will look like and have provided an outline of the system as follows (however, please note that this is just an outline of the proposal and is subject to change depending on the negotiations of the UK and EU and is only for the guidance purposes):
- Applying for a residence document
All EU citizens and their families in the UK will need to apply to the Home Office for permission to stay. Once UK leaves the EU, this will be required by UK law.
The type of application one will need to make will depend on your circumstances, when you moved to the UK and how long you’ve lived in the UK.
The proposal is that the UK government will by 2018, introduce a new Home Office online application system for the EU citizens, including those who already hold a permanent residence document under current free movement rules for a residence document demonstrating their new settled status.
The residence document will prove (for example, to employers or public service providers) that you have permission to continue living and working legally in the UK.
- Timeline for applications
At the point the UK leaves the EU, EU citizens won’t be required to leave the UK if they don’t yet have a document under the new scheme. There will be a period of permission to remain in the UK covering all EU citizens and their families. This is called a ‘grace period’. The grace period will give the EU citizens in UK time to apply for and receive their new residence document.
The grace period will last for a fixed period of time (to be confirmed during negotiations) of up to 2 years but if the EU citizen has not received a document confirming their new immigration status by the end of this period they will no longer have permission to remain in the UK.
- Permanent residence status under EU law
The settled status application process for EU citizens will be separate from the current one for documents confirming EU permanent residence status. Permanent residence status is linked to the UK’s membership of the EU and so will no longer be valid after UK leaves EU.
If you already have a document certifying permanent residence, you will still need to apply for the new settled status document when it is introduced by the Home Office.
- EU citizens who arrive in the UK after the cut-off date
If you arrive before the date the UK leaves the EU, regardless of when the agreed cut-off date is, you won’t have to leave the UK when UK leaves the EU. The grace period of permission to remain in the UK will apply to you in these circumstances.
However, if you would like to stay in the UK after the grace period ends you must apply for permission to stay (‘leave to remain’) before that point.
Details of the rules around leave to remain for EU citizens who arrive after the cut-off date are being agreed and will be published by the Home Office in due course.
- UK employers and EU citizen employees
If you are an EU citizen working in the UK or a UK business that employs an EU citizen, you don’t need to do anything now. There will be no change to the rights and status of EU citizens living in the UK before UK leaves the EU.
After the UK’s exit from EU, EU citizens will need to apply for a document to prove they have permission to legally work in the UK.