The government has laid out what EU citizens living in Britain can expect after the UK leaves the European Union
In its offer to EU nationals living in the UK, the British government says it recognises the need to “honour the expectation” that they moved on the basis that they would be able to settle permanently before the Brexit process was triggered.
The Home Office also says that more than 1 million UK nationals live in other EU countries and their ability to stay and live life much as they do now depends on the agreement reached between the EU and UK. It has set out the following key provisions of its offer:
All EU nationals who have five years’ continuous residence will be invited to apply for “settled status” in UK law. This is essentially the same as indefinite leave to remain under the 1971 Immigration Act, which can be granted to some non-European Economic Area nationals after five years’ residence. This means it will cover the right to reside, to undertake any lawful activity, to access public funds and apply for British citizenship. The settled status will be enshrined by the EU nationals’ residence document – essentially an ID card – which will be backed by an entry on a Home Office database.
The proposal does not discriminate between different EU nationalities, so eastern Europeans will not be “second-class citizens”, as claimed by some. The term settled status is used because it was felt that indefinite leave to remain was too technical.
The proposals exclude the rights of British and Irish citizens, which will be protected by the common travel area. There will be no need for Irish citizens to apply for settled status. The rights of people in Northern Ireland to identify as British or Irish or both will be unaffected.
New rights created for EU qualifying status after Brexit will only be enforceable in the UK legal system. Commitments made in the withdrawal agreement will have the status of international law but the European court of justice will not have jurisdiction in the UK. The proposal will also apply in Gibraltar.
They will lose the right to bring in a spouse – wife or husband – to live with them without meeting a minimum income threshold of £18,600, bringing them in line with UK nationals. They may also lose the right to vote in local elections, but this is not specified in the 15-page Home Office policy paper.
Who Can Apply?
To qualify, the EU citizen must have been resident in the UK before the specified cut-off date and must have completed five years’ continuous residence in the UK before they apply for settled status – at which point they must be in the UK. The cut-off date is yet to be agreed but will be between 29 March 2017, when article 50 was triggered, and the date of withdrawal. An EU national will be able to leave Britain for up to two years without jeopardising their permanent residence status. This rule also applies in counting the five qualifying years.
EU citizens who arrive before the cut-off date but have not built up five years’ continuous residence at the time of Brexit will be able to apply for temporary status in order to remain resident in the UK until they have accumulated five years. Once they have qualified they will be able to apply for settled status. They will be able to access the same benefits as now, including equal access for workers and self-employed and limited access for those not working.
Those who arrive after the cut-off date will be allowed to remain for at least a temporary period and may become eligible for permanent settled status depending on their circumstances. But the Home Office adds that they “should have no expectation of guaranteed settled status”.
Family dependents who join before Brexit will be able to apply for settled status irrespective of the specified date. This includes non-EU family members who have “a genuine relationship” with an EU citizen.