A lot has been said recently about changes to UK laws regarding residency status and associated rights, in particular EU citizens’ right to work in the UK. However, European Economic Area European Free Trade Association citizens, that is, from Ireland, Switzerland, Norway, Iceland and Liechenstein are unaffected. The current rights of UK citizens in those countries and their citizens are mutually protected.
If you reside in the UK and are from another EU country you must follow a new procedure and a phrase frequently heard in relation to all of this is “settled status”. Note a different procedure applies for nationals of non-EU countries so this article relates primarily to EU citizens living and working in the UK and their family members who may or may not be in the UK but are also EU citizens.
Before going into detail about how to claim this status and your rights, it may be useful to get the important questions out of the way:
- How much will it cost? Zero. On 21 January 2019, the UK Government announced the fees for people aged 16+ at £65 and half - £32.50 - if you are less than 16 years of age will end. No-one now has to pay to apply for settled status.
- How urgent is this? You can start the procedure any time after 30 March 2019 until 30 June 2021. If there is no deal between the UK and EU you will have to do this before 31 December 2020. You may want to do this soon to avoid your application being caught in a backlog and subsequently being delayed.
- What if I already have paperwork called “Document Certifying Permanent Residence”? Some people think of this as having a permanent residence card (UK) for EU citizens.You will still need to apply to change your status to the new settled status but the good news is you won’t have to pay or prove you have been here for the minimum period of 5 years. Settled status will allow you to apply for British citizenship in the same way Permanent Residence currently does.
- What if my application is refused? You can reapply as often as you like according to the current government information.
Moving on to how it all works, nothing will change for you until 30 June 2021. If you want to stay in the UK after then, you must have applied to do so beforehand. Be aware that applying for settled status does not mean you will be granted this. It is likely you will be given “pre-settled status” if you have not lived in the UK for 5 continuous years prior to your application but will be allowed to stay on and apply for settled status again in five years time. At the moment it looks like you will not have to pay if you do re-apply in the future after your period of pre-settled status.
If this is your status, you will be able to work and travel in and out of the UK using your passport or national ID card, study, use the NHS and claim benefits you are entitled to. None of your rights are affected if you spend 2 years outside of the UK during this time. If you have children in the UK whole you hold pre-settled status, they automatically have the right to pre-settled status also but will only be British citizens if the other parent holds this status.
What about getting settled status? If you have spent at least 6 months in every one year (12 month) period in the UK for 5 years before 31 December 2020, you will more than likely be given settled status straight away and have the same rights indicated in the first sentence of the paragraph above. If you spend more than 6 months out of the UK but no more than 12 months, you must have an “important reason” for this absence. Examples of this are serious illness, study or training, being sent to work outside of the UK by your employer, military service or having a baby. You must provide official evidence of this.
It may be possible to keep your settled status even if you spend up to five years in another country although this is still to be confirmed at 21 January 2019.
Remember … evidence of these circumstances will be from the country where you have been during this time so more often than not they will be in a language other than English. You don’t want to leave your application too late but if you haven’t arranged the relevant legal translation services soon enough, this could delay your application. As an official English translation or “certified” translation is usually requested by authorities, and signed hard copies are required, you must allow time for postage.
Documents you will definitely need to prove your identity for all applications are your passport or national ID card. There is no official advice at this time that these must be translated. To prove your residence, a valuable UK document is your National Insurance Card as the Authorities can confirm your residence from their tax and benefit systems. Depending on your circumstances, you may be asked to provide other documents.
The advice of this writer is that where these may be needed (i.e. absence from the UK over 6 months), arrange the translations of your medical records, education certificates/letters or employment letters or records before you apply for settled status.
What about your family? If you’re living in the UK, children born there will be British citizens and if a personal relationship with another EU citizen began before 31 December 2020 and you are in the same relationship when they apply to live in the UK, they should be able to join you. It is best you all apply at the same time and “link” your applications so they are processed together. If you are in a new relationship after 2020, your partner or other family members in certain circumstances, will have to apply for a visa which involves a different process.
If your family member is not living in the UK by the end of 2020 and wants to join you, you must have settled or pre-settled status and your “close family relationship” must have existed before this time. This is not just husbands, wives or partners but also “dependents” such as children, parents, grand-children or grandparents. You will have to prove this relationship and to do this you will need documents from your country like birth certificates, adoption certificates, marriage certificates etc.
As with the other documents from outside the UK that are mentioned above, you will need official document translation services to deal with these personal documents before you apply.
What if my family member is under 21 years old? Firstly, you or they must be an EU citizen and you have 2 options.
- Option 1 is like the process for other EU citizens in UK after “brexit” (see above) and is based on how long the person under 21 has lived in the UK. They can claim settled status if they can prove they have lived in the UK for five years. If this is not possible, they might be granted pre-settled status. The only difference is they cannot link their application to that of another family member.
- Option 2 allows the person under 21 to apply for the same status you or another close family member may be allowed to have. Once they apply the Home Office will decide if they need to prove they are resident in the UK. In all cases they must prove they are your family member.
There are further requirements for other circumstances including being married to a UK citizen, having a parent who is a UK citizen, retirement, starting work in another EU country after claiming settled status, you, a spouse or family member being from outside the EU etc.