A closer look at Settled Status for EU citizens
Following the release of more details of the UK Government’s scheme for a streamlined application process to grant EU citizens in the UK settled status to safeguard their position following the UK’s departure from the EU, our EEA Immigration solicitors here at OTS Solicitors take a look at the post-Brexit position for EU nationals and what the settled status scheme entails in more detail.
Safeguarding the rights of EU citizens with settled status
Ever since the Brexit referendum in 2016 when the UK voted to leave the EU, the rights of EU citizens – and more to the point what will happen to EU citizens who have been living and working lawfully in the UK for many years - has been one of the key points of focus for many. One of the fundamental freedoms that the UK signed up to as part of the EU was free movement of people. Once in the UK for 5 years, EU citizens acquire permanent residence status through the automatic operation of EU law – and although no evidence of this is required, many have gone on to obtain a permanent residence card which evidences the right, some assisted by Legal 500 recommended Immigration solicitor OTS Solicitors. In fact, since the Brexit referendum, there has been a significant increase in applications for permanent residence, something that our Immigration solicitors in London have been aware of as we help and support many in their applications. Until the UK leaves the EU, all EU citizens still have these rights and freedoms to come to the UK.
Applying for settled status
The announcement on 22 June 2018 giving more details of the settled status scheme comes as a relief for many EU citizens and every UK Immigration lawyer following the Brexit process. The Home Office has issued a detailed ‘statement of intent’ and published details on the .gov website – it’s important to note that at the time of writing, the details of the scheme are still subject to approval by Parliament.
Key dates for Settled Status applications
March 2019 Although the settled status application scheme is to commence trials in the next few weeks, it will not be open for applications generally until March 2019
29 March 2019 ‘Brexit Day’ this the day the UK officially leaves the EU, although there is to be a transitional period until 31 December 2020. EU citizens coming to the UK will continue to be able to exercise their EU Treaty rights as before un this period.
31 December 2020 This is the date by which EU citizens must have started living in the UK if they wish to apply for settled status (or ‘pre-settled’ status). It marks the end of the post-Brexit transition period.
30 June 2021 This is the date that the settled status scheme will close for applications. After that, EU citizens will be subject to Immigration rules in the same way as non-EU/EEA nationals are currently subject – we will need to wait and see if any preferential arrangements will be put in place, either in agreement with the EU as a whole, or with individual member states regarding ongoing Immigration requirements.
Eligibility for Settled Status
In order to offer as much comfort as possible to EU citizens, the eligibility criteria for settled status seems to be straightforward. You must
• Be an EU citizen, or a family member of an EU citizen
• Have 5 years’ ‘continuous residence’ in the UK
• Have started living in the UK by 31 December 2020
Children will be eligible for settled status, including those who are under 21 and arrive in the UK after 31 December 2020. If you have settled status and you have a child in the UK, he or she will automatically be a British citizen and will not need to obtain settled status.
Close family members (spouse, civil partner, a dependent child or grandchild, or a dependent parent or grandparent) not in the UK by 31 December 2020 will also be able to apply for settled status provided the family member is eligible for settled status and the relationship was in existence before 31 December 2020.
This has been introduced to allow EU citizens who have been in the UK for less than 5 years to effectively stake their claim to settled status. It addresses the rights of those who come to the UK and wish to stay but will not have acquired the requisite 5 years’ residence to apply for settled status. Pre-settled status will allow EU citizens to be in the UK for 5 years on the same basis so that they can acquire 5 years’ continuous residence and obtain settled status. It is only open to EU citizens in the UK up to 30 June 2021 when the scheme closes.
Requirements for settled status application
The application for settled status will be online although there will be arrangements in place for those without access to the internet at home. Applicants for settled status will need to have
• Proof of identity – this could be a valid passport, national identity card or biometric residence card
• Proof of residence in the UK – including P60s, bank statements, utility bills etc
• Proof of relationship to an EU citizen for those outside the EU
Settled status and criminal convictions
One of the key bones of contention with the settled status scheme has been the significance (or not) of criminal convictions. The letter sent by the Home Secretary, Sajid Javid, to those signed up for information about the scheme, mentions ‘serious criminal convictions’ although there has been no clarity about what ‘serious’ means. The updated information on the .gov website says that applications which disclose criminal convictions will be dealt with on a case by case basis, so we are no further forward in terms of being able to give people assurances. Reports suggest that if the conviction resulted in a sentence of 12 months or more, this may put settled status in doubt.
OTS Solicitors are Immigration lawyers and EEA Immigration solicitors committed to assisting EU citizens navigate the best path to regularise their status in the UK in the tricky Brexit/post-Brexit period. Call 0203 959 9123 today to be assured of receiving advice from some of the best Immigration solicitors in London.