Brexit & Individuals: What EU citizens living in the UK need to know

The UK left the EU on Friday 31 January 2020.  Free movement ended at 11pm on 31 December 2020.

Brexit and EU law advice for individuals

If you are an EU citizen who was resident in the UK on or before 31 December 2020, you can apply to register under the EU Settlement Scheme for pre-settled or settled status before the 30 June 2021 deadline. 

The same rules apply to other European Economic Area nationals (nationals of Norway, Iceland and Liechtenstein) and Swiss nationals.

I haven't yet applied to the EU settlement scheme, have I lost my right to live in the UK?

No. For EU citizens who were resident in the UK on or before 31 December 2020, there is a grace period which allows you to stay in the UK and apply to the EU Settlement Scheme by 30 June 2021. This means that until 30 June 2021 EU citizens legally in the UK are allowed to live and work in the UK in exactly the same way as before. 

During the grace period, if you want to start a job or rent a flat in the UK and you are asked to prove your right to work or right to rent, it is enough to show your passport or national identity card.

Will I be able to stay in the UK?

Yes, if you were resident in the UK on or before 31 December 2020.  But you and your family members living in the UK – including children – must apply to the EU Settlement Scheme.

You don’t have to apply if you are an Irish citizen or if you already have indefinite leave to remain.

You must apply by 30 June 2021.

EU citizens who have lived in the UK continuously for five years are eligible for settled status under the EU Settlement Scheme. You don’t have to have lived in the UK for the last five years. Any five-year period is fine as long as you have travelled back to the UK at least once every five years since the end of the five-year period you are relying on. Settled status is a special type of indefinite leave to remain which gives the same rights as permanent residence under EU law. 

EU citizens who have lived in the UK for less than five years are eligible for pre-settled status. This is a temporary status which can be converted into settled status after five years. 

You do not need to show that you have been exercising a right of residence under EU law, which can sometimes be complicated. Actual residence is enough.


How do I apply for settled status?

For most people the process is simple. There is no fee.  

You need an Android phone or an iPhone 7 or above. Download the EU Exit: ID Document Check app and use it to scan your passport and your face. 

After using the app you need to complete an online application form.

After you have filled in the form the system will check your tax and benefits records. If these checks indicate that you have been living in the UK for five years in a row you will be considered for settled status. If they indicate that you have been living in the UK for less than five years you will be considered for pre-settled status. If you are not offered the status you are entitled to, you can upload documents such as Council Tax bills and utility bills as evidence of your residence in the UK.

You do not normally need to send your passport or any other documents to the Home Office. 

Family members who are non-EEA nationals have to book an appointment to have their photo and fingerprints taken. The system prompts them to do this after they have submitted the online application form. 

Straightforward applications may be processed in a few days but often can take longer. If you have to upload evidence of residence the processing time is several weeks. Complicated applications for non-EEA national family members can take months.

You won’t get a physical document unless you are a non-EEA national family member. Instead you will be given a link to a website where you can view your status and get a code which you can share with other people if you need to prove your status to them.

Will my family outside the UK be able to join me in the future?

Your existing close family members living outside the UK will be able to join you in the UK under the current EU rules, which are much more generous than UK rules. The family relationship must have existed before the end of the transition period on 31 December 2020. 

Future family members – for instance someone you marry after the transition period – will need to apply under the UK rules. This does not apply to children. Your children will be able to join you in the UK under EU rules even if they are born outside the UK after the transition period. 


Should I become a British citizen?

Settled status gives you almost the same rights as a British citizen. You can live in the UK permanently. You can work, study and use the NHS and other public services in the same way as a British citizen living in the UK. 

But you can lose settled status – for instance if you leave the UK and don’t come back for more than five years, or if you commit a serious crime. And settled status does not give you the right to vote in the UK. For these reasons it’s worth considering applying to become a British citizen. 

You can apply to become a British citizen after you have held settled status for one year (or straightaway if you are married to a British citizen). If you have lived in the UK for many years and acquired permanent residence under EU law you may not have to wait.

Before applying, check whether your country of origin permits dual nationality.

What about my children?

If you have children born in the UK they may already be British citizens.

Children born in the UK on or after 30 April 2006 are automatically British if at least one of their parents was granted settled status or completed the five-year qualifying period for permanent residence before they were born.

If you are granted settled status after your child was born you can apply to register your child as a British citizen.

There are different rules for children born before 30 April 2006, and different rules again for children born before 2 October 2000.

Should I wait and see what happens?

No. The 30 June 2021 deadline is very unlikely to be extended. We advise applying to the EU Settlement Scheme as soon as possible. 

Unless you are Irish or you already have indefinite leave to remain you must apply to the EU Settlement Scheme.

What if I want to move to the UK after 31 December 2020?

Unless you were living in the UK on or before 31 December 2020 you will need to get a visa before moving to the UK.  See our FAQs on the new immigration system.

Further information on the rights of EU citizens living in the UK and of British citizens living in the EU

To find out more about your right of residence in the UK, please contact a member of our immigration team.

Examples of our work

  • Advising EU citizens on the preservation of their pre-settled and settled status.
  • Advising on pre-settled and settled status applications from outside the UK.
  • Advising on the eligibility of family members to join EU citizens in the UK, including after 1 January 2021.
  • Advising family members of dual British and EU citizens under the Lounes principle.
  • Assisting with applications for family members arriving back in the UK with their non-EU citizen family members under the Surinder Singh principle.
  • Advising in relation to eligibility to naturalise as a British citizen where comprehensive sickness insurance has not been held.
  • Advising on retained rights of residence for family members of EU citizens.

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