Prior to 31 December 2020, EEA and Swiss nationals had the freedom to enter the UK without any immigration restrictions. Now that the transition period has come to an end, EEA and Swiss citizens are subject to a new immigration regime, requiring visas and permits to live and work in the UK. They will now need to prove their status at the border when entering the UK as well as to employers, landlords, banks and the NHS.
EEA and Swiss nationals and their family members who began their residence in the UK before 31 December 2020 have until 30 June 2021 to apply to the EU Settlement Scheme (EUSS) for either pre-settled or settled status.
EEA and Swiss citizens who no longer live in the UK, but who resided in the UK for at least five continuous years at some point in the past, could also be eligible to apply for settled status.
Family members who move to the UK after 31 December 2020 can apply to join an EEA or Swiss relative who was resident in the UK before that date. In most cases, they must now obtain a family permit before travelling to the UK, and then apply to the EUSS after they have entered.
Rights of residence granted under the EEA Regulations such as Permanent Residence, and other EU residence cards and certificates will no longer be valid beyond 30 June 2021. People holding status under the EEA Regulations must apply to the EUSS before 30 June 2021.
Pre-settled status : resident in the UK for less than five years
Pre-settled status is offered to those who have been resident in the UK for less than five years, providing they have spent at least one day in the UK in the previous six months. It will give them the right to live in the UK for five years. They can then apply for settled status once they have lived in the UK for five continuous years.
Settled status : resident in the UK for more than five years
Settled status is offered to those who have resided in the UK for at least five continuous years, providing that during those five years they spent at least six months of each year in the UK, with the exception of a single absence of less than 12 months for an important reason such as an overseas posting, study, illness or being unable to travel due to the Covid-19 pandemic. Settled status gives the right to live in the UK indefinitely, and eventually to apply for British citizenship.
The benefits of obtaining pre-settled or settled status are extensive – the status allows a person to undertake any activities they wish in the UK, including work, study or being self-sufficient. It is significantly cheaper, faster and less onerous than other kinds of visa, which can cost up to £9,000 in Home Office fees alone over a five year period. Unlike other visas, it does not require financial disclosure or a minimum income, it includes children up to the age of 21 (rather than 18) as dependants. It is also more generous for dependent parents, because it does not require exceptionally compassionate circumstances for them to be accepted as dependants.
The deadline for applying for settled or pre-settled status under the EUSS is 30 June 2021. It is imperative that those who are eligible for the scheme apply in order to secure residency and avoid having to apply for a more expensive or restrictive visa, and potentially risk being in the UK illegally.
EEA and Swiss citizens with indefinite leave to remain granted under the old rules (this will usually be a vignette or stamp in their passport, or a letter from the Home Office) are not obliged to apply for status under the EUSS. However, it makes it easier to prove their right to enter, live, study or work in the UK, and to access the NHS and UK banking system. Airlines, employers and financial institutions are increasingly reluctant to rely on a vignette or stamp as evidence of indefinite leave.
EEA and Swiss nationals arriving in the UK after 31 December 2020
The Home Office will not make exceptions for EEA and Swiss nationals who did not move to the UK before 31 December 2020. Instead, they must obtain a visas to remain in the UK for more than six months or to work or be self-employed in the UK.
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