Who can stay in the UK after Brexit?

2 July 2018

“Settled status” and “pre-settled status” is something citizens of other EU countries resident in the UK will soon be able to apply for. According to the government it will grant them largely the same rights they currently have under EU free movement rules to live, work and access public services here indefinitely.

Any citizen of another EU country resident here by the end of 2020 will be able to apply. Family members will still be able to join them (and have the same rights) after this, as long as the family relationship existed by the end of 2020.  

There were an estimated 3.5 million people living in the UK in 2017 who were citizens of another EU country, not including Irish nationals who don’t have to apply for the scheme.

The key points of the scheme are:

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Any EU citizen resident here before 2021 can apply

Any citizen of another EU country who is resident in the UK by 31 December 2020 will be able to apply for settled or pre-settled status. This is the date when the Brexit transition period is due to end.

The deadline for applications is 30 June 2021 (the start date has not yet been set, but the government says it will be fully open by 30 March 2019).

Settled status gives citizens of other EU countries the right to remain in the UK indefinitely. “To obtain settled status EU citizens will generally need simply to have lived continuously in the UK for five years.” In some cases, people may be allowed to apply earlier than this.

Pre-settled status can be applied for by citizens of other EU countries who have not had continuous residence here for the last five years. This allows them to stay in the UK for five years and become eligible for settled status.

If someone has been here less than five years, “continuous residence” means that an individual has “not been absent from the UK for more than six months in total in any 12-month period” during their period of residence, with some exceptions. Once someone has been resident in the UK for five years, they remain eligible for settled status as long as they have not been out of the country for more than five consecutive years when they apply.

Irish citizens won’t need to apply for settled status (they can if they wish to), as their right of residence in the UK is not dependent on it being in the EU. Their family members may use the scheme even if they themselves do not (the rights of family members are explained further below).

The scheme “does not cover the citizens of the non-EU European Economic Area states (Iceland, Liechtenstein and Norway) and Switzerland”. The government says it wants to get “a similar deal for citizens of these states living in the UK and for UK nationals living there.”

The government has said that those who already have a permanent residence or indefinite leave to remain document can swap this for settled status.  Switching over will allow them to be absent from the UK for five consecutive years (rather than two which is the usual case under current rules) before their settled status lapses.

There are some special cases where an individual’s right to remain in the UK is underpinned by separate EU laws or isn’t contained in the draft Withdrawal Agreement drawn up with the EU. The government says these individuals’ rights to residence will also be provided for.

Family members can apply too

Family members who are living with, or join, a citizen of another EU country who is resident in the UK by the end of 2020, will be able to apply for pre-settled or settled status (whichever is suitable), even if they themselves are not EU citizens.

They maintain this right even after 31 December 2020, as long as their relationship existed before 31 December 2020, and continues to exist when they wish to come to the UK. They will have three months from their arrival to make an application if they arrive after 31 December 2020, (or until 30 June 2021 if they arrive before 1 April 2021).

Citizens of other EU countries will largely have the same rights to live, work, and access public services as they have now

Having settled status allows an individual to stay in the UK indefinitely (as long as they are not absent from the UK for more than five consecutive years).

The government says that settled or pre-settled status “will enable EU citizens and their family members living in the UK to continue their lives here much as before, with the same entitlements to work, study and access public services and benefits, determined according to the same rules as now”.  Though it adds that the entitlement to work will be “subject, in light of the Withdrawal Agreement, to any relevant occupational requirements”.

At the moment, EU law means that qualifications for many highly regulated professions—such as nurses, midwives, doctors, dentists, architects and vets—obtained in other member states are recognised in the UK. Under the draft Withdrawal Agreement these qualifications will continue to be recognised after Brexit. However, there is no agreement yet in place to cover non-EU citizens with qualifications that are covered by separate legal provisions.

The Home Office told us it is intending to draw up provisions for those not yet covered by the Withdrawal Agreement.

The application process will have three key parts

The exact application process hasn’t been set out yet, but there will be three “core criteria” that a candidate will need to provide evidence for

  • Verifying their identity and nationality (normally through a passport, national identity card, or biometric residence card/permit).
  • Establishing that they are resident in the UK, and how long their continuous residence has been (and if appropriate, that they are a family member of an eligible EU citizen). Where possible, this will be filled out on an automated basis, using data held by government bodies, and “applicants will be able to upload additional evidence to fill in gaps in residence or where there is no government data”. You can see the list of acceptable evidence here.
  • Checking their suitability, which largely means checking they are not a “serious or persistent” criminal, or unsuitable for “other public policy reasons” in line with the EU public policy tests for deportation used at the moment. After 31 December 2020, the reasons for refusing settled status will be tested against UK deportation thresholds (this normally occurs if the crime leads to a prison sentence of more than 12 months).

Applicants will be able to apply online or by post if necessary.

Applications will be free of charge. Those who already have a permanent residence document or have previously been granted indefinite leave to enter or remain in the UK can apply for a switch to settled status free of charge.

Update 29 April 2019

We updated this piece in light of the government's decision to make settled status applications free of charge.

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