What are my rights as an EU citizen in the UK after Brexit?

Who still knows what’s going on with Brexit? Anything can happen by this point, although the more likely option is that nothing will happen for the next few months and we’ll stay stuck in this crazy limbo for a while longer. Either way, whether the UK leaves the EU with or without a deal, on the 29th of March or later, there is one thing EU citizens that are living in the UK can do to secure their status as a resident in the UK. This week, the Postgraduate society of the University of St. Andrews hosted an information event on Brexit, presented by an immigration lawyer and I think it’s important that all EU citizens currently resident in the UK, are aware of what she told us.

Fun fact: Since being a part of the EU, the UK never required any EU citizens coming in to register as a resident. This means that the UK has no idea how many EU citizens are actually living in the UK, and it also means that even if you have lived here as an EU citizen for 30 years, there is no official record of this. Therefore, you could be kicked out of the UK after Brexit, because you don’t have the status of an official resident, as this was never required while the UK was part of the EU.

So, with Brexit looming on the horizon, the government set up a scheme in which EU citizens in the UK can apply for a settled status. You should be allowed to reside in the UK once you acquire this status whether Brexit happens or not.

What you need to know about the settled status:

  • In order to be eligible, you need to have a valid passport from an EU country or if you are a family member of an EU citizen, and you have a residence card with a biometric chip and ‘EU right to reside’ on the back.
  • You will be granted a settled status if you have been living in the UK for 5+ years.
  • You will be granted a pre-settled status if you have been living in the UK (before Brexit takes place) for less than 5 years, and you will then be granted a settled status once you have been living in the UK for 5 years.
  • You don’t have to have lived in the UK continuously for 5 years if you were abroad for study or a job. You will have also been allowed to be elsewhere than the UK for 6 months each year. These years will be counted as you being a resident in the UK that year.
  • You need to disclose any criminal records and might be denied settled status if you have committed a serious crime in the past (however, the advice is to disclose if you do have a criminal record, as they will find out anyway and might deny you settled status based on your deceit).
  • You can currently only apply for settled status on an Android phone. It is not possible to do this on an Apple, and it is currently not possible to apply for settled status on a computer.
  • There is currently a fee of 65 pound to apply, but this will be waivered from the 1st of April due to complaints.
  • In the app, you’ll be asked to provide your National Insurance Number, as the system uses your NI to check if you have indeed been living here for x amount of years | This will work fine if you have been constantly working or have been paying council tax, but if you are a student, for example, you are less likely to meet these criteria.
  • If your NI records do not meet the criteria, you can upload additional evidence to prove that you have been a resident in the UK for x amount of time. Evidence can include bills or letters from doctors, university records, proof of address etc.
  • If there is a no deal Brexit, you can apply for the settled status until 31 December 2020. If there is a deal, you can apply for the settled status until 30 June 2021.
  • If you do not apply for the status before the deadline, you lose the right to reside in the UK and will have to go through immigration services.

The government is aware that it’s unlikely that they can process the number of expected settled applications before the end of their deadline. Therefore, they are not actively advertising this scheme. There is a sort information page on this settled scheme on gov.uk (link) and the scheme is presented to be effortless and easy. However, this is not the case for many people. Children, the elderly, the homeless, people that are illiterate or people that don’t know how technology work might struggle to get a hold of valid documentation in order to prove their right to a settled status. Additionally, not everyone will have access to an Android device and many people will not be aware of the scheme, as it is not being advertised.

On a side note, it is possible to apply for British citizenship if you have lived in the UK for over 5 years, or if your spouse has British citizenship and you have been living in the UK for 3 years. Applying for British citizenship cost £1000.

I hope this is helpful in some way. If you are living in the UK as an EU citizen and want to stay, please apply for the settled status. It’s the only way you can secure your right to stay.

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