Changes to the UK immigration rules now require EU citizens and their family members to secure their long-term status in the UK by applying for settled status.
The EU settlement scheme is now open to eligible EU citizens. We look at some of the frequently asked questions on the new settled status scheme.
When do I need to apply for settled status in the UK?
As an EU citizen, or family member of an EU citizen, you do not need to act immediately under the new scheme. There will be no change to your current rights under EU law until the end of the proposed implementation period on 31 December 2020.
The deadline for applications to the scheme for those resident in the UK by the end of 2020 will be 30 June 2021, six months following the end of the implementation period.
Close family members joining an EU citizen here after 31 December 2020 will have three months from their arrival in which to make an application for status under the scheme, or until 30 June 2021 if they arrive before 1 April 2021.
When you choose to apply may depend on your individual circumstances. In the event that you miss the deadline to submit your application for settled status, you may be given a reasonable further period in which to apply where you have good reason for your delay, although this is in no way guaranteed.
Am I eligible to apply for settled status?
Under the new scheme you will be eligible for ‘settled status’ if you are an EU citizen or family member of an EU citizen who, before the end of the implementation period on 31 December 2020, have been continuously resident in the UK for five years. Settled status under the EU Settlement Scheme will enable you to remain in the UK indefinitely.
To be continuously resident in the UK, it generally means you must have been living in the UK for at least 6 months out of any twelve-month period claimed towards your five year total.
There is no restriction on the number of absences permitted, provided that the total period of absence does not exceed six months in any twelve-month period.
There are also some exceptions to the six month rule, for example, a single period of absence of more than six months but which does not exceed twelve months is permitted where this is for an important reason, such as pregnancy, childbirth, serious illness, study, vocational training or an overseas posting.
What about family members?
Non-European family members of EU citizens – eg a spouse, civil partner, long term partner, dependent child or grandchild, and dependent parent or grandparent – are also to apply for the status, on the basis of their relationship to the EU national. Applying at the same time as the EU relative is encouraged and likely to lead to faster processing. In addition to evidencing their EU relative’s status, non-EEA family members will also need to submit evidence of their own identity, residence in the UK and relationship to the EU citizen.
Non-EEA relatives living overseas will still be able to join an EU citizen resident in the UK until 29 March 2022, provided the relationship existed on the date of Brexit. Future children are also protected.
What if I do not have 5 years in the UK by December 2020?
For EU citizens and their family members who arrive in the UK by 31 December 2020 but will not have been continuously resident for five years, will instead be granted ‘pre-settled status’. This will enable them to stay until they have reached the five-year threshold, at which stage they can apply for settled status.
How do I apply for settled status?
The new application process is via an app (Android phone) or online and is in three stages:
- Identity – each applicant will need to verify their identity and nationality, either through their passport, national identity card or biometric residence permit.
- Eligibility – each applicant will need to prove that they are resident in the UK. Here, employment and benefit records will be checked on an automated basis to establish continuous residence, although you will be able to upload additional evidence to fill any gaps.
- Suitability – criminal checks will be undertaken of any applicant over 18, where anyone guilty of serious or persistent criminality either in the UK or overseas, may have their application under the new scheme denied.
If you are applying as a family member of an eligible EU citizen from outside the EU, you will also need to provide proof of your relationship to that family member, for example, a birth, marriage or civil partnership certificate.
You will again be able to scan and submit any necessary documentation through the online application form.
Do I have to apply from the UK?
No, your application can be made from outside the UK.
How much does the settled status application cost?
There is no application fee for those applying for settled status.
If you currently hold UK permanent residence, transferring to settled status will also be free of charge.
If you have accumulated five years’ residence and are applying to transfer from pre-settled to settled status under the scheme, again there will be no charge.
What will my rights be with settled status?
Those granted either settled status or pre-settled status will have the same entitlements to work, study and access healthcare, pension and other benefits in the UK as you currently do.
In addition, existing close family members living overseas will be able to join you in the UK in the future in the same way as they can now, provided your relationship with them began before 31 December 2020 and you are still in the relationship when they apply to join you.
A close family member includes a spouse, civil partner, durable partner, as well as a dependent child, grandchild, parent or grandparent. This includes the child, grandchild, parent or grandparent of your spouse or civil partner.
What if I already have UK Permanent Residency or Indefinite Leave to Remain?
If you currently hold UK permanent residence, you can apply to transfer to settled status. This is also free of charge.
If you already have indefinite leave to remain or enter, you will not be required to apply for settled status. However, you may consider this option since settled status permits absences of up to five years without loss of status, whereas ILR is limited to two years out of the country. Take advice on your circumstances.
Can I apply for British citizenship?
EU citizens looking to naturalise as a British citizen should first apply for settled status before making their application for citizenship.
I am Irish – do I need to apply for Settled Status?
Irish citizens are not required to apply for the new scheme, although they may do so if they choose.
Do you have a question about the UK Settled Status Scheme?
DavidsonMorris is a law firm specialising in UK immigration. We help individuals with their UK immigration needs, and can guide and support you through any Home Office process, including an application to secure your rights to remain in the UK. If you have any questions, please contact us.