Brexit: The latest on the UK immigration process

From 30 March 2019, new immigration rules, the EU Settlement Scheme, apply to EU nationals and their family members who are living in the UK before the UK’s planned exit from the EU, whether or not the UK strikes a deal on Brexit. The Scheme will run in tandem with the existing rules on Permanent Residence until the EEA Regulations 2016 are repealed by specific legislation after Brexit, which means that EU nationals can currently choose which route to apply under in order to secure their right to live, work and study in the UK.

In many cases, the process for applying under the Scheme is light touch and entirely digital. It requires applicants to download an app on any Android device (the app is not yet compatible with iPhones), scan their passport, National ID Card or UK Biometric Residence Card, their face and photograph, and then complete the application online to input their National Insurance number and answer questions on criminality.

Under the Scheme, EU nationals and their family members who have been continuously resident for 5 years in the UK may be eligible to apply for Settled Status, allowing them to stay indefinitely in the UK. Those who have been resident for less than 5 years may be eligible to apply for Pre-Settled Status, allowing them to stay in the UK until they have reached the 5 year threshold, at which point they may be eligible for Settled Status.

If a deal is reached, EU nationals and their family members have until 30 June 2021 to apply. Family members of UK-resident-EU nationals can join them in the UK after Brexit, or if there is no deal, until 29 March 2022, providing the relationship existed at 31 December 2020.

The Scheme’s automatic checks with HMRC and DWP data make it less onerous for most applicants to prove residence. Also, applicants who have been studying or self-sufficient in the UK no longer have to prove that they held comprehensive sickness insurance, unlike the rules on Permanent Residence. Also, whilst Settled Status is lost after a continuous absence from the UK of 5 years or more, Permanent Residence is lost after a continuous absence of 2 years or more.

However, there are disadvantages to the Scheme, not least because applicants cannot choose which 5-year residence period they rely on in the application. This may delay their eligibility to naturalise as British citizens until they have held Settled Status for 12 months (for those applying on the 5-year route to naturalisation). In contrast, Permanent Residence is acquired after any qualifying 5-year period of residence which means that it can be backdated to the point at which the EU national completed 5 years in the UK. This impacts those with UK-born children who will be British citizens if one parent had Permanent Residence at the time of birth.

Each case is different and we can provide guidance on the different options for EU nationals.

Please click here to view our table outlining the above.

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