Following the end of phase one of the Brexit negotiations, a joint report from the negotiators of the European Union and the United Kingdom was published on Friday 8 December 2017. Amongst other things, it indicates what agreements have been reached in respect of European citizens and their family members residing in the UK after Brexit.
We have known since June that European citizens and their family members who have been residing in the UK for five years will have to apply for ‘settled status’. ‘Settled status’ will give people the right to reside in the UK indefinitely, to access public funds and to go on to apply for British citizenship if they wish to. However, the process and timings to acquire ‘settled status’ were not clear.
Since the report, European citizens and their family members finally have some indication as to how the application process for ‘settled status’ is going to be implemented, although the procedure is far from finalised.
In summary, it has been agreed that European citizens and their family members who have been living in the UK lawfully for a full five year period before 29 March 2019 will be able to apply for ‘settled status’.
It has also been agreed that all citizens who have a permanent residence document under European Law must have that document converted into a new ‘settled status’ document. The process will be free of charge, however, anyone who does not have their document converted by a deadline yet to be announced may make themselves unlawfully present.
European citizens and their family members who arrive by 29 March 2019 but who will not have been in the UK lawfully for five years when the UK leaves the EU will be able to apply for a temporary residence permit until they have reached five years. They will then be able to apply for ‘settled status’. Neither the report, nor the updated Home Office guidance define the term ‘lawfully’.
Certain ‘close’ family members will be able to apply to join their EU family members after the exit date, but only where the family member had an existing relationship with the EU national before 29 March 2019. This relationship must continue to exist when the family member wishes to come to the UK. Children who are born or adopted after the exit date will also be able to apply. All other family members will have to meet UK immigration law if they wish to enter the UK.
‘Settled status’ will be lost if a person is absent from the UK for a continuous period of five years, and they will then also be subject to UK immigration law.
A decision has still not been reached on the application process for European citizens who arrive in the UK after 29 March 2019.
The UK has also said that they expect their offer to be extended to citizens of Norway, Iceland, Lichtenstein and Switzerland, although that has not yet been confirmed. Irish citizens will not need to apply for the new status.
Please bear in mind that all of the above could still change as the negotiations continue. Also be aware that it is not yet possible to make an application for ‘settled status’; the new application system is expected to go live sometime in 2018.
It is possible to make an application for a permanent residence document under the current system, and we are assisting many European citizens and their family members with these applications. Please contact us for a consultation if you would like advice on permanent residence, or any other aspect of European Law.