How to stay in the UK after Brexit – a guide for EU citizens
EEA Immigration solicitors have long observed the benefits of the EU freedom of movement rules. There has been a steady exchange of EU citizens and UK citizens as individuals take advantage of wider horizons to travel and work elsewhere. If you’re one of the many EU citizens who has been living and working in the UK, perhaps for many years, and are now well established with family and other ties here, the uncertainty that the Brexit referendum has created will be a source of concern. As experienced London immigration solicitors, we have been keeping a close eye on developments as regards the new ‘settled status’ for EU citizens and what that means. Of course, the overall position of the UK as it leaves the EU remains uncertain, with negotiations on going, but we can look at the current proposals for EU citizens in the UK and offer advice about how to stay in the UK after Brexit.
1. Apply for permanent residence
permanent residence will cease once the settled status scheme takes effect, but it is still possible for EU citizens and non-EU family members to obtain their permanent residence before the settled status scheme is fully up and running early in 2019. The best Immigration solicitors in London recommend that if you are eligible for a permanent residence document, it is worth making the application now to protect your position.
EU citizens do not need to obtain a permanent residence document to live in the UK – currently, an EU citizen exercising EU freedom of movement has the right to live in the UK automatically. However, obtaining a permanent residence card can be useful to evidence the right, for example in respect of administrative matters. It’s also currently required if you wish to apply for British Citizenship – which you can do a year after you have acquired your permanent residence document.
permanent residence is available to EU citizens and to their non-EEA family members. It’s also available to the non-EEA family members who have come to the UK under the Surinder Singh route – i.e. they have lived with their EEA partner in another EU country before coming back to live in the UK.
Although it is envisaged that permanent residence documents will no longer be valid from 31 December 2020, it is still worth obtaining permanent residence if you are eligible to do so. If you have obtained permanent residence documentation, you will not have to pay to apply for the new ‘settled status’.
2. Apply for settled status
The settled status scheme has been set up by the UK government to address the concerns of EU citizens and their families living in the UK about their position once the UK leaves the European Union.
It is not yet open for general applications although the process is being trialled. Immigration solicitors will be interested to know the outcome of the trials which began at the end of August as some 4,000 EU citizens living in the UK have been invited to apply for settled status.
Settled status will be available to any EU citizen who has been living continuously in the UK for 5 years. Settled status will also be available to family members of EU nationals. It will be available to those under the age of 21 even if their parents are not eligible for settled status. Those under 21 will be able to apply in their own right or an application can be made on their behalf.
The UK Government has been at pains to reassure EU citizens and their families that the settled status application process will be straightforward and designed to ensure that as many EU citizens as possible are awarded settled status. One key question for Immigration solicitors in London concerns those with criminal convictions, and it remains to be seen whether anything comes out of the trial on this. Current information on the Government website indicates that someone who has been in prison will need at least 5 years’ continuous residence after leaving prison before they can apply for settled status.
3. Apply for pre-settled status
For those not yet eligible to apply for settled status, there is the option to apply for ‘pre-settled status’. This gives EU citizens in the UK for less than 5 years who are wondering how to stay in the UK after Brexit the opportunity to effectively stake a claim to settled status before the cut off date of 30 June 2021.
Pre-settled status will allow you to stay in the UK for 5 years in order to fulfil the ‘continuous residence’ requirement of settled status. Once you’ve received pre-settled status, there will be no additional fee for the settled status application.
If you are still confused about the options available to you to stay in the UK after Brexit, the best thing to do is to talk to a UK Immigration lawyer. They will be able to advise on your Immigration status and explain the best course of action to make sure you don’t lose out. It’s also critical to remain aware of what’s going on with the settled status scheme. It is due to go live to all applicants in March 2019, and the deadline for applying will be 30 June 2021. We’ll be updating our blog as developments happen!
OTS Solicitors are recommended in the Legal 500 for Immigration law matters, and we are well placed to assist EU citizens and their families with all aspects of permanent residence and with settled status. To discuss your situation in confidence, call 0203 959 9123.