EEA nationals in the UK after Brexit: What application can I make?

This short guide is intended to help European Economic Area (EEA) nationals who live and work in the UK understand which application they should make in order to remain in the UK after Brexit? The EEA includes the EU countries and also, Iceland, Liechtenstein and Norway.

The important date to consider is the date the UK leaves the EU. As it stands the government is saying that they will arrange the UK to leave the EU on 31 October 2019.

It is also important to know if the UK leaves with a deal (an agreement to have EU free movement law continue for a further period) or if the UK leaves without a deal ending important EU rights on that day

This advice assumes the UK leaves the EU on 31 October without a deal.

This guide is for general information only. It is not a substitute for advice from a lawyer. If you are having problems with your immigration status you should seek advice from one of the organisations listed.

(1) The settled status scheme

The “settled status scheme” is a scheme designed by the UK Government for EU nationals who were living in the UK before Brexit. Under this scheme EU citizens are given permission to live and work, settle and travel in an out of the UK under UK immigration law. EU citizens previously had these rights under EU law. You need to apply under the EU settlement scheme if:

  • You are an EU, EEA or Swiss citizen
  • you’re not an EU, EEA or Swiss citizen, but your family member is

If you are an EU national who started living in the UK before 31 October 2019,you should apply to the settled status scheme as soon as possible.

If your family members are with you in the UK, they should apply too.

EU citizens who are living in the UK by 31 October 2019 and their families have until at least 31 December 2020 to make an application to the EU Settlement Scheme.

You will either be granted settled status or pre-settled status depending on how long you have lived in the UK.

EU citizens coming to live in the UK after it has left the EU can get a temporary work visa up until the end of 2020 but won’t have rights to settlement under the EU settlement scheme.

(2) Settled status- 5 years living in the UK

Assuming the UK leaves on 31 October 2019 without a deal if you are an EEA national or family member and have lived in the UK for a continuous period of years or more before that date, you should qualify for “settled status.” This means you have “indefinite leave to remain”- or the right to stay permanently in the UK.

The 5 years must be continuous residence. This means that in those 5 years you must have been here for at least 6 months in any 12-month period.

If you have left the UK for Christmas or summer holidays- – you can still qualify as long as you have not left the UK for more than 6 months in any one year.

However, you are allowed one period of absence of more than 6 months but less than 12 months, during the five-year period as long as you can show this was for an important reason, such as having a baby, serious illness, study or training.

You are also allowed a period of absence of any length if you were abroad doing compulsory military service in your own country.

Your 5-year period will be broken if you served a prison sentence or if a deportation or exclusion order was made against you.

You may not qualify for settled status if you have been absent from the UK for 5 years or more since you completed your 5 years of residence, or if a deportation or exclusion order has been made against you.

If you are in this situation you should take advice from an immigration lawyer.

(3) Pre-settled status- less than 5 years living in the UK

If you are an EEA national or family member and on the no deal departure date of 31 October 2019 you have lived here for less than 5 years, you should qualify for “pre-settled status.” This means you have the right to stay in the UK for a limited time, normally 5 years.

If the UK leaves on 31 October without a deal – to qualify for limited leave to remain, you will need to be living or have recently lived in the UK before that departure date.

If your application succeeds, you should be granted 5 years’ leave to remain – called pre-settled status.

Once you complete a 5-year period of residence you will be able to change your status to “settled status.

(4) When should I apply?

You should make an application for pre-settled or settled status as soon as possible and before 31 October 2019 in light of the Government’s position that a No-Deal Brexit is an option on this date.

If you are outside the UK on the 31 October 2019 departure date you may be able to apply for leave to enter under the pre- settled or settlement schemes if you can prove your residence here prior to that departure date.

(5) Family members

If you have family members who are already living in the UK with you, they may be able to apply for limited or indefinite leave to remain under the settled status scheme, even if they are from a non-EEA country.

The family members who can apply are:

  • Your spouse (husband or wife), civil partner, or unmarried partner.
  • Your “direct descendants” (children, grandchildren, great-grandchildren etc) who are under the age of 21.
  • Your “direct descendants” (children, grandchildren, great-grandchildren etc) who are over the age of 21 but are dependent on you. (This means that they could not meet their essential living needs without your financial or other material support.)
  • Your parents, or your spouse or civil partner’s parents, who are dependent on you. (You do not need to prove that your parents are dependent on you – you only need to prove that they are your / your spouse or civil partner’s parents.)
  • Your other dependent relatives, if they already hold a residence card issued by the Home Office as your dependent relatives.

What if you are living in the UK but your family members are not?

It is possible that if you are already living here you may be able to bring family members to the UK after 31 October 2019, but this depends on a number of factors, including which country you are from and whether the UK leaves the EU with or without a deal. If you are in this situation you should seek advice from an immigration lawyer.

If you want to make sure that your family members can live with you in the UK after Brexit, it would be better to make sure that they are already living here with you by 31 October 2019 in light of the Government’s position that a No-Deal Brexit is an option on this date.

(6) Criminality

If you have serious criminal convictions and/or a deportation order has been made against you, you can expect to have problems applying under the settled status scheme. If you are in this situation, you should take advice from one of the suggested organisations.

(7) Your rights with settled or pre-settled status

If you get settled or pre-settled status, you will be able:

  • Work in the UK;
  • Use the NHS;
  • Enrol in education or continue studying;
  • Access public funds such as benefits and pension, if you’re eligible for them;
  • Travel in and out of the UK.

If you want to spend time outside the UK:

  • If you have settled status, you can spend up to 5 years in a row outside the UK without losing your status.
  • If you have pre-settled status, you can spend up to 2 years in a row outside the UK without losing your status. You will need to maintain your continuous residence if you want to qualify for settled status.

If you have children after applying:

  • If you get settled status, any children born in the UK while you’re living here will automatically be British citizens.
  • If you get pre-settled status, any children born in the UK will be automatically eligible for pre-settled status. They will be a British citizen if their other parent is a British citizen or settled here. Children born in the UK can qualify to register as British citizens if their parents become settled here.

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