EU Citizens in UK after Brexit: Deal or No Deal Scenarios


The increasing likelihood of a no-deal Brexit is creating further confusion about EU citizens’ rights after the UK leaves the European Union.

How will a no-deal affect EU citizens in the UK after Brexit?

What has the Government confirmed so far?

Assurances have been made by the Government that EU citizens and their family members that are resident in the UK by 29 March 2019 will be able to remain here under the new EU settlement scheme. By applying for settled status, EU citizens in the UK can continue to work, study and access benefits and services in the UK on the same basis after Brexit. Those holding the new settled status will also be able to leave the UK for up to five consecutive years without losing their right to return.

The timescales and requirements for applying for settled status however will be determined by whether there is a deal or no deal, with less favourable terms for EU citizens should the UK leave the EU on the basis of a no-deal scenario.

EU Citizens’ Rights if No Deal Brexit

The settlement scheme would continue to be implemented in a no-deal scenario for EU citizens resident in the UK by 29 March 2019.

Where the UK proceeds to exit the EU without a deal, there would be no transition period. Without a transition period, EU citizens and their family members resident by 29 March 2019 would have until 31 December 2020 to apply for settled status, but with no six-month ‘grace period’ beyond this.

You will have until 31 December 2020 to apply for status under the new settlement scheme. Until the end of December 202o, EU citizens will be able to use their passport or national identity card to evidence their right to reside in the UK.

The new UK immigration system is expected to be implemented from 1 January 2021. Details of the new rules are expected to be published by the end of 2018. Guidance to date does not specify provisions for those arriving in the UK after 29 March 2019 or before January 2021.

EU citizens with settled status would be able to be joined in the UK, by 29 March 2022, by existing close family members, such as children, spouses and partners, parents and grandparents living overseas at exit, where the relationship existed by 29 March 2019 (or where a child was born overseas after this date) and continued to exist when the family member applied.

After 29 March 2022, such family members will be able to join EU citizens here by applying through the applicable UK Immigration Rules. EU citizens with settled status will be able to be joined by future spouses and partners (where the relationship was established after exit) and other dependent relatives until 31 December 2020, after which point the UK Immigration Rules would apply to such family reunion. Together this would bring the rights of EU citizens in line with the rights of UK nationals from 30 March 2022

EU Citizens’ Rights under the current Deal

Nationals of EEA countries and Switzerland who are residing in the UK before 1 January 2021 will be able to continue their residence, provided they have applied for, and been granted, settled status.

If an exit deal is agreed by the EU and passed by UK Parliament, under the current terms, settled status would be available to EU citizens who have lived in the UK for more than five years, without the requirement to evidence residency. There will be an implementation period, allowing EU citizens until the end of December 2020 to apply for settled status with a grace period of six months.

To be eligible, you must not have spent over six months out of the country in any 12 month period during the qualifying 5-year period and must not have a serious criminal record. If you have under 5 years’ residency, you will be able to apply for pre-settled status before switching to settled status at the 5-year mark.

The application process is online and there is no application fee.

Application processing is expected to take around 3 weeks.

If you already hold permanent residence status, you must apply to switch to settled status. This is also free of charge.

Non-EU family members will also be able to apply for pre-settled or settled status, although the process may take longer and it is expected that passports will need to be submitted.

A pilot scheme is currently in operation, with full implementation due to go live from March 2019.

Post-Brexit Immigration System 

The Government has advised its immigration white paper will be published before the end of the year, setting out the legislative framework for new UK immigration rules governing the rights of EU citizens post-Brexit.

Information about the changes so far released have focused on priority being given to high-skilled workers and EU citizens becoming subject to the UK points-based immigration rules, in the same way as non-EEA nationals, as free movement is ended.

Details of specialist schemes are also expected to be provided, specifically looking at sectors reliant on lower skilled workers where the UK resident labour market does not meet industry recruitment needs, such as agriculture.

Do you have a question about EU citizens’ rights after Brexit?

DavidsonMorris is a law firm specialising in UK immigration. We help individuals including EU citizens understand their immigration rights under UK law and support through any Home Office application process. If you have a question about your UK immigration status, please contact us.


Founder and Managing Director Anne Morris is a fully qualified solicitor and trusted adviser to large corporates through to SMEs, providing strategic immigration and global mobility advice to support employers with UK operations to meet their workforce needs through corporate immigration.

She is a recognised by Legal 500 and Chambers as a legal expert and delivers Board-level advice on business migration and compliance risk management as well as overseeing the firm’s development of new client propositions and delivery of cost and time efficient processing of applications.

Anne is an active public speaker, immigration commentator, and immigration policy contributor and regularly hosts training sessions for employers and HR professionals

About DavidsonMorris

As employer solutions lawyers, DavidsonMorris offers a complete and cost-effective capability to meet employers’ needs across UK immigration and employment law, HR and global mobility.

Led by Anne Morris, one of the UK’s preeminent immigration lawyers, and with rankings in The Legal 500 and Chambers & Partners, we’re a multi-disciplinary team helping organisations to meet their people objectives, while reducing legal risk and nurturing workforce relations.

Contact DavidsonMorris
Get in touch with DavidsonMorris for general enquiries, feedback and requests for information.
Sign up to our award winning newsletters!
We're trusted