A Guide to the EU Settlement Scheme After Brexit

The EU Settlement Scheme Trial

On 21st January 2019, the UK government launched the test phase of the EU Settlement Scheme. This scheme allows EU citizens who reside in the UK to apply for the right to remain in the UK after it leaves the European Union. To stay in the UK legally after Brexit, any EU citizens must apply for this scheme by the deadline. The final date to apply is 30th June 2021. However, if the UK leaves the EU with no deal in place, then the deadline will move forward to 31st December 2020. The scheme will be ending its test phase and opening fully from 30th March 2019. The UK will officially leave the EU at 11 pm on 29th March 2019, unless an extension is agreed.

What is the EU Settlement Scheme?

One of the benefits of being an EU member country is that citizens are allowed freedom of movement to live, work, and study in the other EU member countries. Brexit will mean that the UK is removing itself from this policy. Any EU citizens who live in the UK have to apply to continue living here once freedom of movement no longer applies. This scheme is the UK government’s answer to controlling who can live and work in the UK after Brexit. All EU nationals who fail to apply or whose applications are not successful will then lose their legal right to stay in the UK. They will have to leave the UK if they are not granted legal settlement status.

Settled Status

To be eligible for settled status in the UK as a European, you must have been living in the UK for 5 years. Continuous residence means that you have lived in the UK for at least 6 out of every 12 months in that period of 5 years. The scheme allows exceptions up to 12 months for studying, training, working overseas, or medical conditions, as well as military service for any length of time. Having settled status means that you can live in the UK for as long as you want to. You will be able to work, study, and travel legally. It also grants you the right to use the NHS, and apply for British citizenship, benefits, and pensions, if you are eligible. If you have any children in the UK while living here, they will automatically have British citizenship. You can bring close family members into the UK with you after 31st December 2020 as long as your ongoing relationship with them began before that date. After this, they will need a family visa.

Pre-Settled Status

If you cannot prove that you have been living in the UK for 5 continuous years, including the exceptions mentioned previously, then you might be eligible for pre-settled status instead. This status will allow you to stay in the UK for up to another 5 years. You must then apply for settled status if you want to keep living in the UK after that. You can apply again as soon as you have continuous residence of 5 years. With pre-settled status, you can still work and study in the UK, and use the NHS. You can also access government benefits and pensions that you match the criteria for, and travel out of the UK. If you have children, they will automatically receive pre-settled status too, unless the child’s other parent is a British citizen.

Working in Another EU Country

There are some cases when you may be able to get settled status without having 5 years of continuous residence in the UK. Any EU citizens who were unable to continue working due to an illness or accidental injury might be eligible. You must have been living in the UK continuously for the 2 previous years, or be entitled to a pension from a UK institution. You could also be eligible for settled status if you are the family member of an EU citizen who meets these conditions. If you marry or enter into a civil partnership with a British citizen, then you will also be able to get settled status. If you reach State Pension age or retire early, or are the family member of an EU citizen who does this, then you may be eligible for settled status as well. EU citizens reaching the State Pension age must have been working continuously for at least 1 year and living in the UK for 3 continuous years, or be married to a British citizen. The same rules apply to EU citizens retiring early, excluding self-employment. You may be eligible for settled status if you are an EU citizen who starts working in another EU country. You must have been living and working in the UK for 3 continuous years and return to your home in the UK once a week.

Who has to apply for the EU Settlement Scheme?

EU citizens, or family members of EU citizens, should all apply to the scheme if they intend to stay on in the UK after 30th June 2021. This includes people from the EU who are married to British citizens and those born in the UK who aren’t British citizens. This scheme is not for people who are from countries outside of the EU, even if their spouse is a British citizen. Irish citizens do not need to apply, and neither does any person who has indefinite leave to enter or remain in the UK. However, family members from outside of the UK and Ireland will have to apply. People from outside the EU who are related to an EU citizen will need to apply as well. You may be the spouse, partner, child, grandchild, great-grandchild, or dependent of an EU citizen living in the UK. You may need a residence card as proof of the relationship. You will still have to apply to the scheme even if you have a “UK permanent residence” document.

Settlement If You Are Under 21 Years Old

If you are under 21 years old and you are an EU citizen, or your parent or their spouse is an EU citizen, then you can apply for settled status. You can apply based on your parent’s status or on the length of time that you have lived in the UK. To get the same status as your parent, you will have to provide proof of your relationship to them. The Home Office may also ask for proof of residence before making a decision. If you apply based on how long you have been living in the UK, your status will depend on whether or not you can prove 5 years of continuous residence in the UK. Your application will be separate from any family members who are also applying for the EU Settlement Scheme. Irish citizens don’t need to apply.

Permanent Residence or Indefinite Leave to Remain

Applying for this scheme will not be the same process for anyone with permanent residence or indefinite leave to remain. Those with a valid “UK permanent residence” document can change this to settle status by applying for the scheme. You will have either a certificate inside your residence documentation booklet, a certificate inside your passport, or a biometric residence card if you are from outside of the EU. It will not be a permanent residence document if it says “registration certificate” on it. Your document should say “Document Certifying Permanent Residence” if you are from the EU, EEA, or Switzerland. If you are from outside of these areas, then it should say “Permanent Residence Status” on your passport. You won’t have to prove that you have lived in the UK for 5 continuous years. If you have indefinite leave to remain (ILR), you must have applied for this immigration status. You will have a passport stamp or a Home Office letter proving this status. You might have a sticker or a biometric residence permit. If you have indefinite leave to remain, then you don’t have to apply to keep living in the UK. If you choose to apply anyway and meet the conditions, you could get settled status. You can then spend up to 5 continuous years outside of the UK without losing settled status, in comparison to 2 years with indefinite leave to remain.

How to Apply for the EU Settlement Scheme

The test phase of the EU Settlement Scheme is already open, but it will be opening fully from 30th March 2019. To apply during the test phase, you must meet the requirements and have the relevant documentation for proof. Only people with access to Android phones can apply during the test phase. Once it is open to everyone, you can apply online using any type of device. You can get help over the phone by calling 0300 123 7379 from inside the UK. You can send supporting documents by post if you are unable to scan them with an Android phone for your application.

EU Settlement Scheme Application Documents

To apply successfully, you must prove your identity, your UK residence, and your relationship to a family member from the EU who lives in the UK if you are from outside of the EU. They will accept a valid passport, national identity card, or biometric residence card as proof of identity. You can find a location to scan them for you. The application form also requires a recent digital photograph of your face. For proof of residence, you can enter your National Insurance number for an automatic check on your benefit and tax records. The Home Office should contact you if there is not enough data to prove your residence. They should tell you which documents you can provide as proof of your continuous residence in the UK. If you are over 18 years old, then any convictions which come up under a criminal background check could affect the success of your application. If you are from outside of the EU, you will have to provide proof of your relationship to an EU citizen who is living in the UK. This could be a birth or marriage certificate. If they apply before you, then you can link your application to theirs using their application number, rather than having to provide the documents again. Unless you have a biometric residence card or are under 4 years old, you must provide fingerprints and a photograph of your face at a UK application centre.

What Will Happen After Applying for the EU Settlement Scheme

If your application to the EU Settlement Scheme is successful, then the Home Office will contact you by e-mail. They will send you a link to their online service which you can use to view your status or provide further proof that they requested. You will only receive a physical document if you are from outside of the EU and do not have a biometric residence card yet. They will contact you if there is a mistake in your application so that you will have a chance to correct it. The Home Office might also ask for more evidence before making a decision about your status. If your application is not successful, they will tell you in the letter whether you can apply for an administrative review of the decision. This will cost £80, but they will refund it if the administrative review is successful and they grant you a settlement status. When you apply for this scheme, they will close any other outstanding immigration applications you have and refund you for any fees. You will not receive a refund if you withdraw.

How much does it cost to apply for the EU Settlement Scheme?

Initially, anyone applying for the EU Settlement Scheme must pay a fee in order to do so. Applications cost £32.50 for anyone under 16 years old, while anybody above that age must pay £60 to apply. However, with the launch of the test phase earlier this month, the Prime Minister made the announcement that applications will be free once the scheme opens in full on 30th March 2019. Only those applying during the test phase will be charged the application fee. Applicants who already have indefinite leave to remain or a “UK permanent residence” document will not have to pay if they apply to upgrade their status under the settlement scheme.

EU Settlement Scheme Application Fee Refund

Since it would be unfair to charge people for participating in the scheme and applying early, anyone who pays the fee will receive a refund. You will still have to pay the £32.50 or £60 per application upfront during the test phase, but you will get that money back once the scheme launches fully on 30th March 2019. The government will be announcing how the refunds process will work closer to this time. It is currently not known whether they will automatically refund everybody or if you will have to apply individually to get your EU Settlement Scheme application refund. If you decide to withdraw an application, then they will not refund you.

What Will Happen to UK Citizens Living in the EU After Brexit?

The EU Settlement Scheme is only for EU citizens wanting to settle in the UK following Brexit. Until Brexit officially happens, set for 29th March 2019, any UK citizens living in the EU will remain EU citizens. After that, this status will be revoked and UK nationals won’t be able to live, work, or receive healthcare and pensions in EU countries under the laws of the EU. Instead, the UK government is negotiating a Withdrawal Agreement to ensure that UK nationals and their families can continue to live in the EU after Brexit. The agreement will protect UK citizens and their close family who are living in the EU before the end of the implementation period on 31st December 2020. Their rights will generally remain the same. However, some EU countries may require UK nationals and their families to apply for residency documents or individual legal status. If this happens, you will probably have until 6 months after the end of the implementation period to apply. If this is not free, then it should not cost more than the price of applying for a passport in that country. The UK government will be updating their guidance closer to the Brexit start date. You can check the latest guidance for living in an EU country here.

Get help online if you have any questions about the EU Settlement Scheme, or if you need assistance with an application. You will need to provide your name, e-mail address, and the application reference number if the query is about an existing application you have made.