As a result of Brexit and the expected end to free movement of people that will accompany it, all EU citizens (other than Irish citizens) living in the UK will soon be required to register for a new type of “settled status”. On January 21, the day her government began the next stage of its pilot testing of the settled status application scheme, Theresa May announced that EU citizens would no longer be charged a £65 application fee. What does settled status mean, and how would it change if the UK left the EU without a Brexit deal?
Q: Does settled status still act as a guarantee that an EU citizen can live or work in the UK in the case of a no-deal Brexit?
Official government guidance has confirmed that in the case of no-deal Brexit, the settled status scheme will still apply. However, if the UK left the EU without a deal on March 29, 2019, the timeframe would be sped up.
No deal means the planned transition period, scheduled until the end of December 2020, would not happen. Under a no-deal scenario, settled status would only be available for those EU citizens resident in the UK before March 29 2019 – and those who qualified by that date would have only until December 31 2020 to put in their application.
If a deal is passed, while still subject to what is ultimately agreed, it is assumed that eligible EU citizens would have until June 30 2021 to submit their application. So it is clear that no-deal Brexit leaves EU citizens with a lot less room for error or delay.
Q: Will settled status give an EU citizen the same rights they are afforded now, while the UK is still in the EU?
The idea is that yes, settled status should guarantee the same rights currently enjoyed by EU citizens taking advantage of EU free movement rules. This includes health care, pensions and other benefits and services in the UK.
While EU citizens who already have indefinite leave to remain in the UK can apply for settled status, they do not have to. Settled status means they can live for up to five years in a row outside of the UK and still return, compared to two years in a row with indefinite leave to remain.
According to the government’s policy paper on no-deal implications, any settled EU citizens in the UK before March 29 2019 could have close family join them until March 29 2022. After this time, any family wishing to join EU citizens in the UK would be subject to a future new immigration system, under which the government intends to treat EU and non-EU nationals arriving in the UK the same.
Q: What will happen to an EU citizen who has not secured pre-settled or settled status by the deadline?
The “deadline” for a settled status application changes in the case of a no-deal Brexit – and March 29 2019 becomes a much more important date. Any EU citizen not resident in the UK before this date would no longer be eligible for settlement. This has wide-reaching implications for deportation.
Deportation of EU citizens is something the EU has extremely high protection against. But in the case of a no-deal scenario the high standard of protection against deportation currently governed by EU law would apply in the UK only until March 29 2019.
After this, UK law will apply to EU nationals as well as non-EU nationals. It allows anyone considered to be a “foreign criminal” to be deported automatically. If, under UK law, EU citizens who fail to secure settled status before the deadline are considered “foreign criminals” by the government, then there is a chance they could be liable to deportation.
Meanwhile, even if a Brexit deal is reached, there are still questions surrounding how protected an EU citizen will be from deportation after any transition period.
Q: Once somebody has pre-settled status, do they need to do anything in particular to get settled status?
Pre-settled status grants the same rights as settled status. At the moment, an EU citizen who applies and is granted pre-settled status (because they had not yet been in the UK for five years), will have to apply for settled status once they are eligible if they want to remain in the UK.
The details are unclear as to how difficult or long-winded this process will be, though the message has consistently been that the whole process will be “streamlined and user-friendly”. But it remains unclear what would happen to someone with pre-settled status who fails to apply for settled status, and this could raise concerns for anybody who fails to grasp that this second step is needed.
Q: Can EU citizens apply to become British citizens once they have acquired settled status?
British citizenship is always available to anybody who meets the criteria. In the original statement of intent about the programme from the Home Office published June 2018, settled status would replace the status of having indefinite leave to remain.
This means that an EU national granted settled status would be able to apply for British citizenship immediately if they were a spouse or civil partner of a British national and had lived in the UK for at least three years (though to get settled status they would need to have been resident for five years anyway). They could also apply immediately if they had held indefinite leave to remain for more than a year. Otherwise, they would have to wait a year after getting settled status to apply for British citizenship.