Brexit Latest - Take Action to Remain in the UK
On March 29th 2019 the UK is scheduled to leave the European Union. Since the withdrawal process began in March 2017 there has been a great deal of confusion as to what exactly this will mean for EU nationals currently living and working in the UK. With the date of withdrawal fast approaching, we here at White Rose Visas have published this guide to help you better understand your situation and the steps you might need to take to remain in the UK following Brexit. This guide will assist those already living in the UK as EU nationals, as well as those planning to arrive before the Brexit implementation period ends on the 30th June 2021.
Until the UK formally leaves the EU there will be no change in the right to free movement; EU laws will continue to apply and the rights of nationals will remain unchanged. After Brexit this free movement will end, and all EU nationals (both those currently living in the UK and those who want to move to the UK in the future) will need to apply to obtain or uphold their settled status. This process will be known as The EU Settlement Scheme.
The EU Settlement Scheme: What is it?
The EU Settlement Scheme, first outlined by The Home Office in June 2018, has been designed to provide a route for EU nationals and their families to continue living in the UK following Brexit. The scheme will be accessible to any EU nationals and their family members who are resident in the UK before the end of the Brexit implementation period on the 30th June 2021.
How do I apply?
The Government has stated that this process will be both simple and very quick for all those who apply, claiming that most decisions will be made within two weeks or sooner.
It will be an online process with plans to launch a smartphone app, allowing applicants to provide their identity using a smartphone or tablet. This will streamline the process of providing evidence, however at the time of writing there are concerns as to how this app will work on Apple products, and we are yet to see evidence of the technology in action. The Home Office also claim that assistance will be provided for those unable to complete the process online, potentially involving home visits by immigration officials, but they are yet to provide any further detail on how this assistance will work.
There are only three requirements for all EU nationals seeking settlement to meet:
- Proof of Identity.
- Criminal Record (The Home Office has claimed that any checks for criminal activity will be for ‘serious and persistent criminality’, meaning that parking fines or minor offences should not cause a rejection).
- Proof of living in the UK.
The hope in launching this new process is that most people won’t need to provide supporting documents as their answers will be checked against government databases. However, as we’ve seen with UKVCAS and other application processes in the past, it is rare for these schemes to run as smoothly as The Home Office claims they will before launch.
How much will it cost me to apply for the EU Settlement Scheme?
At the moment applications made through the EU Settlement Scheme will cost £65, or £32.50 if you’re under the age of 16. However, when the scheme is launched in full applications will be free of charge, and anyone who has already paid this fee will be able to receive a full refund.
Applications to the scheme will be free of charge for everyone, including those meeting any of the following criteria:
- You have indefinite leave to remain in or enter the UK (ILR) and want to change this to settled status.
- You have a valid UK permanent residence (PR) document.
- You’re applying from April 2019 to move from pre-settled status to settled status.
- You’re a child in local authority care.
Please note that ILR and permanent residence are different. Most EU nationals will hold permanent residence through a permanent residency document, rather than ILR.
If you currently have a permanent residence document you will still need to apply through the scheme to ensure you can remain in the UK.
Those holding ILR do not need to switch to settled status, but there is some incentive to do so; if you spend 2 years outside of the UK you can lose your ILR, whereas settled status allows for 5 years spent continuously outside of the UK before your status will be revoked.
When should I apply for the EU Settlement Scheme?
Applications for this scheme will open fully by 30th March 2019 and the deadline for applying will be 30th June 2021. Depending on your circumstances your application will be for settled or pre-settled status.
What is the difference between settled and pre-settled status?
Your application will be dependent on whether or not you have had 5 years’ continuous residence in the UK before 30th June 2021, as this determines whether you can apply for settled status or pre-settled status. This continuous residence means that for 5 years in a row you have been in the UK for at least 6 months in any 12-month period.
- Settled Status: If you apply through the scheme once you have held 5 years continuous residence in the UK (and meet all the remaining criteria) you will be granted settled status. Once settled status has been granted you will not need to apply through the scheme again.
- Pre-settled Status: If you meet all criteria except for 5 years residence you can apply for pre-settled status, which allows you to remain in the UK until you become eligible to apply for fully settled status following 5 years residence.
With this in mind we would advise any EU national to apply for their settlement or pre-settled status as soon as possible once the scheme has been launched to ensure they are able to remain in the country following 30th June 2021.
What happens to family members following my EU Settlement Scheme decision?
All family members who are living with an EU national before the implementation period ends will be eligible to apply for status under the scheme. The scheme will also be open to close family members, both EU and non-EU nationals, who are living overseas, as long as proof of the relationship can be provided. They will however have to apply through the scheme themselves in order to receive their settled or pre-settled status.
What rights will I have on the EU Settlement Scheme?
Holding settled status will allow you the right to stay in the UK for as long as you like, as well as the opportunity to apply for British citizenship, use the NHS, work and study in the UK and access public funds such as benefits and pensions. You will also be able to travel in and out of the UK as much as you want.
These same rights apply for those holding pre-settled status, except that you will need to maintain your continuous residence in order to be eligible to switch to settled status. Any children born in the UK whilst you are holding pre-settled status will be eligible for their own pre-settled status but will only be granted British citizenship if they qualify for it through their other parent.
Right now, it is unclear what will happen to those who do not complete their application to the scheme before the listed deadline; its assumed that they will lose all legal rights in the country and may well, in the worst-case scenario, be forced to leave. Due to this uncertainty we strongly suggest that all those eligible apply for their settlement at the earliest possible time.
What happens under a no-deal Brexit?
In February 2019 The Government announced a ‘Unilateral Transition Period’ for any EU Nationals who arrive in the UK between 29th March 2019 and 31st December 2020 if a no-deal Brexit happens. The Home Office will look to introduce a European Temporary Leave to Remain Scheme (TLR) for EU Nationals who arrive in the UK during this period in a no-deal scenario. Those who want to stay in the UK for longer than 3 months will need to apply for the scheme within 3 months and, if granted, will be given TLR status for 36 months in the UK.
We know that TLR status will not lead to settlement and is a non-extendable period of time, meaning it doesn’t allow for ILR status under the EU Settlement Scheme or indefinite stay in the UK. Anyone wishing to stay in the UK for longer than these 36 months will need to apply under new UK Immigration Rules set to be introduced in January 2021. This means anyone ultimately looking to settle in the UK may wish to seek alternative arrangements under immigration laws since the time spent on TLR will not lead to settlement. Please note that these preparations are being made for a no-deal Brexit and if a no-deal leave does not occur the TLR scheme may not come into effect.
White Rose Visas can assist with all types of applications available to EEA nationals, their partners, and family. If you have any further questions or concerns about what might happen post-Brexit, or would like to discuss your personal circumstances in greater detail, please contact us and one of our qualified immigration advisers will be able to assist you.
The full policy document can be found on gov.uk.
Kim Day, Senior Immigration Adviser and Founder of White Rose Visas, comments:
The Home Office are promising to implement a complicated application process for a substantial amount of people on a very short timescale. Due to the continued uncertainty of the situation we would advise any EU nationals to apply for their settlement or pre-settled status as soon as possible to ensure they are able to remain in the UK, as well as to remain up-to-date on all news updates surrounding the process.