The UK is leaving the European Union. At least that’s the plan. The current date for Brexit to take place is 31 October, although there is still considerable uncertainty about what will really happen. Britain’s ‘divorce’ from the EU will mean that the rights of EU citizens living in the UK will change. Under current regulations, EU or EEA citizens have the same rights to live, work and study in the UK as UK citizens, but all of this will change either after 30 June 2021, if the UK manages to strike a deal with the EU, or after 31 December 2020 in a no-deal scenario.
If you’re an EU citizen who has made the UK their home, you may be asking yourself ‘what now?’ The UK government has made several assurances that EU citizens will be able to continue to call the UK home. For that purpose, it has set up the EU Settlement Scheme.
So how does it work?
If you’re an EU, EEA or Swiss citizen currently living in the UK and you want to stay after Brexit you need to apply for the scheme. It’s open now and will remain open until 20 June 2021 or 31 December 2020 in case of a no-deal. You don’t have to pay for it and your application won’t affect your citizenship status in your home country. If your application to the scheme is successful, you’ll either be granted settled or pre-settled status.
With settled status, you’re allowed to stay in the UK indefinitely. To get it you’ll have to have lived in the UK for a continuous five-year period, which means that for five years in a row you have been in the UK for at least six months in any twelve-month period. An exception to this rule is made for ‘important reasons’ such as study, work or military service abroad, in which case you’re allowed to be away for up to twelve months without it affecting your continuous residence count.
Pre-settled status is usually granted if you haven’t been in the UK for five years yet. It will allow you to stay in the UK for another five years and you’ll be able to apply for settled status once you hit five years’ continuous residency.
What does the application process look like?
The process is generally quite quick and can be done online by following this link. The first step is to prove your identity, for which you will need your passport or ID card. You can use the home office’s app (which you can download on any Android phone) to provide your details, send them by post or go to an identity document scanning location.
You’ll also be asked to give proof of residence. The easiest way to do this is by supplying your national insurance number. If you don’t have a national insurance number you’ll be asked to submit other evidence of residency. This could be an annual bank statement, a letter or certificate from your school or university or a utility or council tax bill.
The last step is to declare any criminal convictions.
How long will it take to receive your status?
Applications usually take between one and four calendar days to process but may take longer if you’re asked to supply additional information.
What if I’m not happy with the status I’m granted?
You can ask for your application to be reviewed if you’re unhappy with the Home Office’s decision, as long as you do so within 28 days of receiving your decision email. The review will cost £80. Alternatively, you can choose to make a new application, which will be free. Getting in touch with the EU Settlement Scheme Resolution Centre can also help to shed some light on your application and the status you’ve been granted.
Can my status be revoked?
You can lose your settled status if you spend more than five years in a row outside of the UK. For Swiss citizens, this is four years. If you have pre-settled status you can spend up to two years in a row outside the UK, although this will affect your continuous residence count and therefore your chances of getting settled status.
The uncertainty surrounding Brexit may last a little while longer, but hopefully applying to the settlement scheme will give you some peace of mind about your future in the UK. For more information on the EU Settlement Scheme, your rights in the UK or Brexit, check out the Gov.uk website.