When it comes to the immigration situation in the UK, Brexit has obviously been the hot topic since the referendum in 2016. The government has promised that the position of EU nationals in the UK, and UK nationals within the EU, will be protected but what are the proposals and what will EU nationals in the UK have to do as ‘Brexit’ gets closer. The rights of EU citizens and their families living in the UK will not change until 1 January 2021. EU citizens will continue to be able to live in the UK and access public funds and services as they do at the moment.
The government has presented Brexit as a 3 stage process: a pre-exit period until 29 March 2019, followed by an implementation period until 31 December 2020 and finally, a post implementation period when the new immigration controls for ‘new’ EU nationals in the UK will be in place.
Later in 2018, the government will be introducing a new EU Settlement Scheme which will open fully by 30 March 2019.
People who are living in the UK by 31 December 2020 will have until 30 June 2021 to make an application for status under the scheme. Following this date, new immigration controls will apply for EU nationals and their family members. The government has made a distinction between pre-settled status (those EU nationals who have not lived in the UK for 5 years by 31 December 2020) and settled status (those EU nationals who have lived in the UK for 5 years by this date). If you are only eligible and apply for pre-settled status, you will be allowed to stay here for a further 5 years with the same rights to live and work in the UK as well as the same access to public funds and services as at the moment. After 5 years, you can then apply for settled status.
For those eligible for settled status who already have a Permanent Residence document, you will be able to exchange this document for settled status free of charge under the EU Settlement Scheme and you will not have to prove your residence a second time. Interestingly, for those who have Indefinite Leave to Remain (ILR) and a family relationship to an EU citizen living in the UK, the EU Settlement Scheme gives some better rights and you will be able to exchange your ILR for settled status free of charge.