The UK left the EU on Friday 31 January 2020.
But free movement has not ended – not yet. We are in a transition period. Unless the transition period is extended free movement will end on 31 December 2020.
Have I lost my right to live in the UK?
No. During the transition period – which is due to end on 31 December 2020 – EU law continues to apply to the UK.
This means that until 31 December 2020 EU citizens are allowed to live and work in the UK in exactly the same way as before.
You can continue to travel to and from the UK with just your passport or national identity card. If you travel with a passport you can use the ePassport gates at the airport.
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.
These rules also apply to other European Economic Area nationals (nationals of Norway, Iceland and Liechtenstein) and Swiss nationals.
Will I be able to stay in the UK after 31 January 2020?
Yes, 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.
If you want to apply to the EU Settlement Scheme you must arrive in the UK by 31 December 2020.
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 fill in 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 are processed in a few days. 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.
Should I apply for a permanent residence document as well?
You can apply for a permanent residence document if you have completed a continuous period of five years in the UK as someone who is employed, self-employed, studying or self-sufficient. This type of document is issued under EU law, not the EU Settlement Scheme, and the rules are different.
For most people there is no point in applying for a permanent residence document. It is more difficult than applying for settled status, and even if you get a permanent residence document you still have to apply for settled status to be able to stay in the UK after the transition period.
There are two reasons why it is sometimes worth applying for a permanent residence document.
The first is to get British citizenship quickly. If you want to become a British citizen you must have either a permanent residence document or settled status. If you are granted settled status you then have to wait another year before you can apply for British citizenship (unless you are married to a British citizen) but if you have a permanent residence document you can effectively get it backdated to the date when you completed the five-year qualifying period.
The second reason for applying for a permanent residence document is to get a British passport for a child born to you in the UK before you were granted settled status. If you have a child who was born in the UK after you completed the five-year qualifying period for permanent residence you can rely on a backdated permanent residence document to get a British passport for your child (see below). You don’t have to get a permanent residence document in this situation but it makes the passport application process easier.
Not everyone who has lived in the UK for five years qualifies for a permanent residence document – in particular students and self-sufficient people who don’t have private health insurance. Employees and self-employed people don’t need private health insurance to get a document.
Will my family outside the UK be able to join me in future?
Your existing family members living outside the UK will be able to join you in the UK in future 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.
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). As explained above, if you have a permanent residence document you don’t necessarily have to wait a year.
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. As explained above, if you lived in the UK for five years before your child was born but you did not have settled status at the time it may be worth getting a permanent residence document.
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. It is possible that the transition period will be extended beyond
31 December 2020 but the British government insists that this will not happen.
Unless you are Irish or you already have indefinite leave to remain you must apply to the EU Settlement Scheme to be able to stay in the UK after the transition period.
The deadline for applying is not until 30 June 2021 but don’t leave it until then. Things could get complicated after 31 December 2020.
If you qualify for a permanent residence document you should also think about getting one of these, especially if you want to apply for British citizenship or if you have children who were born in the UK and you think they might have British citizenship.
Further information on the rights of EU citizens living in the UK
To find out more, please contact a member of our immigration team.