What is the latest position for European citizens and their family members living in the UK?
The UK Government has reached an agreement on rights for EU citizens and their families. It purports to provide reciprocal protection for EU and UK citizens, to enable the effective exercise of rights derived from European law where those citizens have exercised free movement rights by the date of the UK’s departure from the union.
It’s possible to break down the effect of the agreement by the date of arrival of the relevant individual, and whether or not they will have completed 5 years continuous lawful residence by the specified date, i.e. the date of the UK’s departure from the EU.
The agreement provides for EU citizens and their families is:
• People who, by 29 March 2019, have been continuously and lawfully living in the UK for 5 years or more will be able to apply to stay indefinitely by obtaining ‘settled status’. This is a UK equivalent of the existing Permanent Residence that exists under the EEA Regulations. Holders of settled status will be free to live here, have access to public funds and services and apply for British citizenship once eligible.
• People who arrive by 29 March 2019, but who won’t have completed 5 years continuous lawful residence by the time the UK leaves the EU. This group of people will be able to apply to stay with a temporary residence card until they have reached the 5-year threshold, after which they can then also apply for settled status.
• Family members who are living with, or who join, EU citizens in the UK by 29 March 2019 will also become eligible to apply for settled status, typically after 5 years continuous lawful residence in the UK.
• Close family members (spouses, civil and unmarried partners, dependent children and grandchildren, and dependent parents and grandparents) will be able to join EU citizens after exit so long as the relevant relationship existed on 29 March 2019. Durable partners who are not residing in the UK on the date of the UK’s departure from the EU, will be eligible to join their EU partner if they can demonstrate that the relationship existed and was durable on the 29 March 2019 and continues to exist at the point they wish to apply for entry to the UK.
• EU citizens with settled status or temporary permission to stay will have the same access as they currently do to healthcare, pensions and other benefits in the UK. The right to be joined by family members not covered by the above will be subject to the UK’s immigration law after the date of departure from the EU.
The procedure by which affected individuals can apply for a settled status card is unlikely to be put in place before the end of 2018. It is proposed that the cost will be no more than the costs of a standard UK passport (roughly £70-£100). Any individual already holding a document certifying permanent residence issued under the existing EEA Regulations will not be charged a fee.
There is no compulsion to apply for a document to demonstrate settled status, or for temporary residence if not otherwise eligible. However, it will become mandatory after 29 March 2021 as things presently stand. The Home Office has indicated that the procedure for an application for settled status will be streamlined to make the process as painless as possible for EEA nationals and their family members.
At this point in time, and given that it appears that there is a relatively straightforward “swap” of existing EEA permanent residence cards for the new UK settled status cards, we continue to recommend applying under the existing regulations where eligible. If you would like assistance with your UK immigration matters, please contact us on 020 7038 3980, at firstname.lastname@example.org, via our online contact form or online chat to speak to a specialist UK immigration solicitor.