Earlier this week, the British Government unveiled its long-awaited proposals for securing the rights of EU nationals who currently live in the UK. Naturally, many EU nationals have questions surrounding the new policy, and immigration solicitors have been inundated with calls from those wanting the best advice as to the next steps to take.
This article aims to answer the questions you have on the new Settled Status policy. However, it should not be construed as legal advice. For friendly, practical immigration law advice, contact our dedicated Brexit hotline on 0207 936 9961.
Why has the government brought in the new policy of Settled Status?
In March 2017, British Prime Minister Theresa May triggered Article 50 of the Treaty of the European Union. This move officially marked the beginning of the UK’s withdrawal from the bloc.
During the two year ‘divorce’ negotiations, one of the most pressing issues for the UK and the 27 remaining EU member states is how to manage the rights of the three million EU nationals currently living in the UK and the estimated one million UK nationals residing in the EU.
Up until this week, Mrs May refused to provide any details as to the post-Brexit rights of EU nationals currently living in the UK. The offer she has tabled has been labelled as “fair and generous” by the Conservative Party. EU national lobby groups such as The3Million and the EU itself beg to differ.
How has the policy been received?
Donald Tusk, President of the European Council stated that the British Government’s offer was “below our expectations” and would worsen the rights of the EU citizens.
According to The Guardian, campaign groups lobbying for EU citizens’ rights said there was also fury that an estimated 150,000 EU citizens who went through the complicated process of applying for permanent residence Cards as a means of securing their future in the UK have to apply again for a new “Settled Status” register that could entail an ID card.
What is “Settled Status”?
Any EU national who has been living in the UK for five years or more continuously will be invited to apply for Settled Status. 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 a certain number of years’ residence.
Having Settled Status means an EU national will have the right to live and work in the UK, free from immigration controls, and receive public funds.
The term Settled Status was chosen as opposed to Indefinite Leave to Remain for simplicity reasons only; EU citizens will not be viewed as second-class settled migrants as some have claimed.
What are the eligibility requirements to apply for Settled Status?
To apply for Settled Status you must have been residing in the UK before the cut-off date (the date EU nationals will be barred from coming to Britain under Freedom of Movement). You will also need to prove you have completed five years’ continuous residency in Britain.
The cut-off date has yet to be announced, but it could proceed the end of the two-year ‘divorce’ negotiations which are due to end in March 2019.
Similar to the conditions attached to Indefinite Leave to Remain status, EU nationals who have Settled Status will be able to live outside the UK for up to two years without jeopardising their status.
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 so they can remain 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.
Anyone arriving after the cut-off period has been warned that they should have no expectation of being able to acquire guaranteed Settled Status. However, they may be able to apply if they meet certain conditions (which have not yet been defined).
I am Irish, do I need to apply for Settled Status?
Irish citizens do not have to apply for Settled Status as the rights of British and Irish citizens will be protected by the common travel area.
If I have applied for and received an EU permanent residence Card do I have to apply for settled status?
The British government has stated that the rights conferred under the EU permanent residence Card or the EU permanent residency status which is automatically acquired by EU Nationals who have been exercising their Treaty rights in the UK for five years, will not be transferred. Therefore, all EU nationals must apply for Settled Status, regardless of whether or not they have an EU permanent residence Card.
Can my family members apply for Settled Status?
Family members who are dependents, ie a spouse, unmarried partner or child under 18 years, who arrive before the cut-off date will be able to apply for Settled Status.
Those who come to the UK after the cut-off date will be subject to new Immigration Rules which are likely to include having to meet the minimum income threshold of £18,600.
Will the new system be as complicated as the EU permanent residence Card?
The government has assured EU nationals that the process for applying for Settled Status will be far simpler than submitting an application for an EU permanent residence Card. HMRC records will be used to verify that an applicant has been working or is self-employed, meaning applicants will not need to submit five years’ worth of payslips or tax records.
What should EU nationals do now?
The best action EU nationals currently living in the UK can take is to contact an experienced immigration lawyer for advice on what they should do given their current situation.
OTS Solicitors is one of the most respected immigration law firms in London. By making an appointment with one of our immigration solicitors, you can be assured of receiving some of the best legal advice available in the UK today. We will provide clear, practical advice on what EU nationals and their families should do to solidify their right to remain in the UK post-Brexit.
If you wish to discuss any of the points raised in this blog, please phone our London office on 0203 959 9123.
For the best expert legal advice and outcome on your UK immigration application, contact OTS immigration solicitors on 0203 959 9123 or contact us online.
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Posted on: Wednesday, 28 June, 2017