The UK gave formal notification of its intention to withdraw from the European Union (by triggering Article 50 of the Treaty on European Union), on 29 March 2017. As the process to leave takes a minimum of two years the UK remains a member of the European Union during this time.
The agreed date of the UK's departure from the EU (Brexit day) is currently 31 October 2019, however the UK Government will make a decision on whether to request an extension to departure date by 19 October 2019.
Citizens of European Union (EU) and European Economic Area (EEA) member states and Switzerland who are already resident in the UK (for example for studies) before the UK leaves the European Union may need to apply to the EU Settlement Scheme in order to continue living in the UK beyond 31 December 2020.
What is the EU Settlement Scheme?
As a part of the UK exiting the European Union (Brexit), the government will end reciprocal European Freedom of Movement to the UK. After Brexit, EU/EEA/Swiss nationals will no longer have the right to live, work & study in the UK. Likewise, UK citizens will lose the right to live, work & study in the other member states under European Directives.
The government has stated that EU/EEA/Swiss nationals & their family members already resident in the UK before Brexit day (currently 31 October 2019), or at the end of any transitional period if there is an agreed withdrawal with the EU, will be eligible to apply for a new status confirming that they can continue to live in the UK. The status can be “Settled” or “Pre-Settled” in the UK.
Irish citizens will not need to apply because the Common Travel Area agreements existed between the United Kingdom and Republic of Ireland prior to the EU Directive.
What is the difference between Settled and Pre-Settled status?
Settled status allows you to remain in the UK indefinitely. Whilst in the UK with Settled Status you can continue to study & work without restriction. You can also access any public funds you may be eligible for and use the National Health Service (NHS). You are free to travel in and out of the UK.
After obtaining Settled Status you can spend up to 5 years outside the UK without losing your status, you can choose to apply for British citizenship and any children born in the UK will automatically become British citizens.
The qualifying criteria for settled status is explained in the section below 'How do I get Settled or Pre-Settled status?'
Pre-Settled Status gives you permission to remain in the UK for a further 5 years from the date that you are granted this status. Once you have reached five years continuous residence, you can apply again to obtain Settled Status if you want to remain in the UK longer. However, you must apply before your five years on Pre-settled status expires if you wish to remain in the UK. You do not have to wait until you have had pre-settled status for 5 years to apply for Settled Status if you will have reached 5 years residency in the UK before that.
Whilst in the UK with Pre-Settled Status you can continue to study & work in the UK without restriction. You can also access any public funds you may be eligible for and use the National Health Service (NHS). You are free to travel in and out of the UK
Additionally, after obtaining Pre-Settled Status you can spend up to 2 years outside the UK without losing your status and any children born in the UK will automatically be granted pre-settled status. However, absence from the UK of longer than 6 months could impact on your eligibility to later apply for Settled Status
The qualifying criteria for pre-settled status is explained in the section below 'How do I get Settled or Pre-Settled status?'
How do I apply to the EU Settlement Scheme?
The EU Settlement Scheme is open to all EU/EEA & Swiss nationals & non EU family members of an EU/EEA or Swiss national resident in the UK before Brexit day (or the end of a transition period if the UK leaves the EU with an agreement).
You need to meet the qualifying criteria, prove your identity, provide your biometric details, complete the online application form and provide evidence of your residence in the UK.
The application is in two stages:
First, use the EU Exit: ID Document Check App which is to confirm your identity and provide you biometric details (photo, face scan and identity document information). The App currently only works on some Android devices with NFC (Near-Field Communication) access. It is not yet available on Apple or Windows devices.
For those who don’t have access to an Android phone, it is possible to book an appointment in an ID Document Scanning Location but there is usually a charge of around £14. Alternatively, you can send your ID documents to the Home Office by post
Second, complete a short online application form: www.gov.uk/settled-status-eu-citizens-families . You can complete this on any device e.g. a desktop computer.
You can apply in the UK or outside the UK. Outside the UK you can only apply using the app.
Please refer to our guide to completing the EU Settlement Scheme Application
What are the qualifying criteria to apply to the EU Settlement Scheme?
The EU Settlement Scheme is open to all EU/ EEA & Swiss nationals resident in the UK before Brexit day which is currently 31 October 2019 (or before 31 December 2020 in case of a deal situation).
The scheme is also open to non EU/ EEA or Swiss nationals resident in the UK if they are the relevant family members of an EU/ EEA or Swiss national who is resident in the UK. (Relevant family members are: spouse/ civil partner/ unmarried partner, children under 21, dependent children 21 or over including grandchildren and other direct descendants, parents, grandparents and other direct ascendants, and other family members who are dependent).
All applications are subject to an identity, criminality and residence in the UK check
How do I get Settled or Pre-Settled Status?
The application for Settled or Pre-Settled Status is the same process through the EU Settlement Scheme. You don’t need to choose which status you are applying for initially. At the end of the application, based on the information provided by you, you are informed if you are being considered for settled or pre-settled status. You have the ability to change that by providing additional evidence at the end of the application.
Settled Status: To be granted Settled Status you must complete the EU Settlement Scheme application and demonstrate that you have been resident in the UK for the last 5 continuous years with no absences of longer than 6 months in any 12 month period.
In exceptional circumstances, a one off absence from the UK of up to 12 months (such as pregnancy, childbirth, study or work posting) or in the case of compulsory military service of any length can be discounted as absence. You must have started living in the UK before 31 December 2020 (or before exit date in the case of the UK leaving the EU with no agreement).
If you are under 21 and are applying with your parents, you may not need to have been resident in the UK for 5 continuous years to obtain Settled Status if your parent(s) have met the requirements.
Pre-Settled Status: To be granted Pre-Settled Status you must complete the EU Settlement Scheme application and demonstrate that you are resident in the UK. You must have started living in the UK before 31 December 2020 (or before exit date in the case of the UK leaving the EU with no deal).
How do I prove my residence?
Settled Status To be granted Settled Status, you will need to evidence that you have been resident in the UK for 5 continuous years. Annex A of the EU Settlement Scheme Guidance provides a list of documents that you can use.
If you have been working/self-employed in the UK during the last 5 years, the easiest and quickest way to prove this is by providing your National Insurance Number (NINo) on the form. UK Visas & Immigration (UKVI) can check this with HM Revenues & Customs by accessing your NINo records. In this case no further documents will be needed to prove residence.
If you haven’t been working some or all of the last 5 years, you can provide other documents listed in Annex A. These can include annual bank statements, letters from your school or university confirming your attendance, or tenancy agreements. All documents you provide must be dated and have your name on them. Check Annex A for the full requirements. If you want to use a Queen Mary student status letter as evidence of your residence, find out how to get this letter here.
If you have had an absence from the UK of longer than 6 months but less than 12 months for one of the important reasons listed above, you will need to provide official evidence.
Pre-Settled Status: If you have been resident in the UK for any period of time less than 5 years, you will need to provide evidence that you are resident in the UK before 31 December 2020 (or before exit date in the case of the UK leaving the EU with no agreement) when you apply.
Only one piece of evidence of residence is required to obtain Pre-Settled Status. The document must be less than 6 months old. If you have a National Insurance Number and you have been working, the National Insurance Number should be sufficient evidence for Pre-Settled Status.
If you don’t have a National Insurance Number and/or you haven’t been working, you can provide other documents from Annex A of the EU Settlement Scheme Guidance If you want to use a Queen Mary student status letter as evidence of your residence, find out how to get this letter here.
What documents do I need to apply?
If you are an EU/EEA/Swiss citizen with a biometric passport you should use your passport with the EU Exit: ID Document Check App. You do not need to send it to the UKVI unless requested.
Non EU/ EEA or Swiss family members of an EU national with a UKVI issued Biometric Residence Permit (BRP) Card, you must use your BRP with the EU Exit: ID Document Check App. You do not need to send it to the UKVI unless requested.
As well as completing the stages on the App, you will also need to provide evidence of your residence in the UK and any evidence to justify absences as explained earlier.
If you are a non EU/ EEA/ Swiss family member of an EU/ EEA, Swiss national, you will also need to provide evidence of your relationship.
Depending on your circumstances, you may need to provide additional evidence.
Annex A of the EU Settlement Scheme Guidance provides a list of documents that you can use to provide evidence of residence in the UK. The EU Settlement Scheme Guidance in general highlights the other documents you may require in specific circumstances (such as absences from the UK for an important reason, evidence of relationship etc)
Do I need to apply now?
Currently, the EU Settlement Scheme is not compulsory while the UK remains a member state of the EU (and during any transition period if the UK leaves the EU with a deal)
The UK Government website states that if you plan to remain in the UK beyond 31 December 2020, you must apply to the EU Settlement Scheme by 31 December 2020 (or by 30 June 2021 in the event of the UK exiting the EU with a deal)
You will need to make a decision about whether you wish to apply now or later if you wish to remain in the UK beyond 31 December 2020 based on your personal circumstances. Some may feel that there is no need to apply as they have no intention of remaining in the UK beyond 31 December 2020. Others may feel that the added feeling of security of obtaining the status now is important.
Unless there are any major changes to the current situation with the UK leaving the EU, anyone wishing to remain in the UK beyond 31 December 2020 (or 30 June 2021 in the event of the UK leaving the EU with a deal) will need to apply to the EU Settlement Scheme to continue residence in the UK.
How much does it cost?
The application is free of charge.
Can my application be refused or rejected?
An application can be rejected if it is considered as invalid, for amongst other reasons; not using the correct application process, not providing the required proof of identity or nationality, or failure to provide biometrics.
An application can be refused in certain cases, including amongst others; an application not meeting the requirements, providing false or misleading information or evidence, failure to disclose information requested such as criminal convictions and where an applicant has certain criminal convictions in particular those which led to a prison sentence
It is important to read the Suitability Requirements for more details and seek advice if you think this may apply to you.
What happens if I spend some time abroad/ have spent some time abroad?
If you have absences from the UK which are less than 6 months in any 12 month period you can still be considered as being continuously resident in the UK. You will not need to provide evidence of these absences.
If you are resident in the UK but are temporarily absent when the UK exits the European Union (Brexit day), you are still eligible to apply to the EU Settlement Scheme as long as the temporary absence has not been for more than 6 months in the last 12 month period. You can choose to apply to the Scheme while you are outside the UK or when you return to the UK.
A single absence of up to 12 months for an important reason can also be considered as continuous residence in the UK, for example pregnancy, child birth, serious illness, fieldwork or a study abroad year.
An absence of any length due to compulsory military service can be considered as continuous residence in the UK.
What if I am not resident in the UK before Brexit?
In the event of the UK exiting the EU without a deal (currently scheduled for 31 October 2019), the UK government had announced that EU, EEA & Swiss citizens can continue to come to the UK as now with no visa required and no restriction on work or study until 31 December 2020.
The government have announced in their policy paper "No Deal Immigration Arrangements for EU Citizens Arriving After Brexit" a new immigration permission for EU, EEA & Swiss citizens and their family members arriving in the UK after Brexit but before 31 December 2020 called European Temporary Leave to Remain.
The European Temporary Leave to Remain (ETLR) status can be applied for free by new arrivals in the UK after Brexit until 31 December 2020 and will grant 36 months of permission to remain in the UK after which a person with ETLR may be able to switch to another immigration category or leave the UK. Under these proposals ETLR will be voluntary and can be applied for at any time before 31 December 2020 to obtain 3 years permission to remain in the UK. Any new arrivals in the UK after Brexit who haven't applied for ETLR by 31 December 2020 will need to either leave the UK or apply for appropriate permission to remain in the UK based on the rules at that time.
In the event of the UK exiting the EU with a deal, EU/EEA/Swiss nationals and their family members can continue to come to the UK as now under existing EU free movement rules until 31 December 2020 then apply under the EU Settlement Scheme. Those arriving after 31 December 2020 will be subject to the UK Immigration rules in place at the time.
What about my family members who are not in the UK?
If you have family members who are EU/EEA/Swiss nationals, in the event of the UK exiting the EU with no deal, they would need to be resident in the UK by the exit date and apply for Pre-Settled Status by 31 December 2020.
In the event of a deal, they can come to the UK as normal before 31 December 2020 and will need to apply for Pre-Settled Status before 30 June 2021.
If you have family members who are not EU, EEA or Swiss nationals, currently they can apply to come to the UK with an EEA Family Permit under European Directives while the UK remains a member state of the European Union.
Under the EU Settlement Scheme rules, family members can come to join you, regardless of whether there is a deal or not, until 29 March 2022. In the event of a no deal Brexit, after this date, family members will need to apply for the appropriate visa in order to come to the UK to join you.
What about health care and use of the National Health Service (NHS)?
EU/ EEA citizens will continue to be able to access NHS services as they do now until 31 December 2020 (or 30 June 2021 in the case of a Brexit withdrawal agreement) regardless of having made an application for settled or pre-settled status.
Those who apply to the EU Settlement Scheme successfully will have access beyond this date if granted either settled status or pre-settled status.
Until the UK exits the European Union existing European free movement rules apply, including the requirement to hold Comprehensive Sickness Insurance (“CSI”) for students and self-sufficient people. This would usually mean holding a European Health Insurance Card (EHIC) or a private health insurance policy. Whilst there is a requirement for permanent residence applications for EEA citizens coming to the UK as either a student or a self-sufficient person to prove that they have had CSI in place for at least five years, the Government has confirmed that evidence of CSI is not required for the Settled Status Scheme. The UK has decided, as a matter of domestic policy, that the main requirement for eligibility under the settlement scheme will be continuous residence in the UK.
When the UK leaves the EU, permanent residence applications will cease to exist, having been replaced by the Settled Status Scheme. As such, to continue paying for CSI would no longer to a requirement for EEA students in order to obtain pre settled status or settled status. However, given the uncertain nature of negotiations between the UK and the EU at present, it may be advisable to continue to pay CSI until the ‘waiver’ of this prior requirement has been confirmed in law in both a deal and no-deal scenario.
What about children born in the UK?
If you obtain Settled Status, any children born in the UK while you’re living here will automatically be British citizens.
If you obtain pre Settled Status, any children born in the UK while you’re living here will be automatically eligible for pre-settled status. They will only be a British citizen if they qualify for it through their other parent.
Under existing rules (for those without settled or pre-settled status) most children born in the UK to parents from EEA countries are likely to have the same immigration status as their parents. Those whose parents have lived in the UK for at least five years at the time of their birth may qualify for British citizenship automatically. The rules regarding this are slightly complex and depend on the date on which a child has been born in the UK:
- children born in the UK before 2 October 2000 are automatically British if either of their parents was exercising a Qualified Person right at the time of their birth;
- those born after that date but before 29 April 2006 are automatically British if one of their parents obtained formal confirmation of the right to live permanently in the UK before they were born;
- if born later than this, it is necessary to show a parent has a right to permanent residence acquired before birth, not necessarily a document showing this.
It has yet to be determined how the “right to permanent residence” will be defined in the context of settled status. It is presumed that children born in the UK to parents who have settled status will still qualify for British citizenship. Arrangements need to be confirmed in respect of those whose parents have five qualifying years of residence but have not yet made the application.
There are detailed rules in place about children obtaining of British citizenship by application if born outside the UK or otherwise not matching a category above. It is unusual for a child to be registered as a British citizen if at least one of their parents is not currently British or applying at the same time, but there is discretion for caseworkers to allow this.
If I already have Indefinite Leave to Remain or Permanent Residency
Those with Permanent Residency status will be required to apply to exchange this to settled status if intend to remain in the UK beyond 31 December 2020 (or before 30 June 2021 in event of withdrawal agreement), “subject only to criminality and security checks”.
Those with Indefinite Leave to Remain in the UK do not need to apply to exchange this to settled status, but can choose to do so if they wish. One benefit of this is that whereas ILR normally lapses after 2 years absence from the UK, Settled Status doesn’t lapse until 5 years absence from the UK.
Should I apply for British citizenship?
The rules for acquiring British citizenship are explained on the UK Government website and the decision whether to apply if you meet the criteria is a personal one.
There are a small number of jobs in the UK Civil Service which are reserved for British citizens alone. Holding permanent residence or settled status would not be sufficient to qualify for permission to work in those specific roles. Anyone holding permanent residence or settled status in the UK should otherwise be able to access the UK’s job market; indeed, it may well prove an advantage to be able to live and work in European Union countries without restrictions
In order to vote in general elections, you must be a British, Irish or Commonwealth citizen. Otherwise, the majority of the same rights are afforded to those with permanent residency status or settled status, including access to public healthcare, schools and pensions.
The current fee for British citizenship applications is £1,330. For many people, such a cost in unfeasible and in which case the free settled status application is much preferable.
Where can I get advice?
The Advice and Counselling Service have a dedicated section of our website for EU, EEA & Swiss nationals where we provide updates on Brexit, the EU Settlement Scheme and other issues which may affect you including a Guide to completing the EU Settlement Scheme application.
The Advice and Counselling Service have also organised information sessions on the EU Settlement Scheme to take place on:
- Wednesday 2 October at 2pm – Bancroft Building, room 2.40, Mile End campus
- Wednesday 9 October at 3pm – People’s Palace 2, Mile End campus
There is no need to book a place for the information sessions, just come along.
The United Kingdom Council for International Student Affairs (UKCISA) have detailed information on the EU Settlement scheme and other issues relating to EU, EEA & Swiss nationals, as well as a free student information line
The UK Government website has a section for EU, EEA & Swiss nationals which contains information on the EU Settlement Scheme, the Application form, policy guidance, immigration rules and other important information.
The AIRE Centre (Advice on Individual Rights in Europe) is an advice centre which specialises in European rights.
The Citizens Advice Bureau has branches across the UK and provides free independent advice on a range of legal matters including immigration related issues.
The Immigration Law Practioners’ Association is an umbrella body for immigration solicitors and advisers many of which specialise in EU rights.