Government issues proposal for EU citizens living in the UK: key questions answered

Immigration legal expert Emma Brooksbank answers key questions about what the government's new proposals for EU citizens means for anyone living, working or studying in the UK.

Simpson Millar's Emma Brooksbank, Partner and Head of Immigration, answers key questions about what the government's new proposals for EU citizens means for anyone living, working or studying in the UK.

Will my rights change before Brexit?
Whilst the UK remains in the EU, all EU citizens and their family members who are living, working and studying in the UK will continue to have the same rights under EU law as they held prior to the referendum.

What rights will I have when the UK leaves the EU?
On 27 June 2017, the government announced its proposals for the rights of EU citizens and their family members after March 2019, when the UK leaves the EU. It should be recognised that these are only a proposal at this stage. The government has said that it will create new rights for EU citizens who were living in the UK before Brexit took place. The proposal is that all EU citizens and their family members will need to apply for residence status, even those who hold a permanent residence card. This status is referred to as settled status (this is likely to be indefinite leave to remain).

Who can apply for settled status?
In order to qualify for settled status, EU citizens and their family members must have been living lawfully in the UK before a "specified date" for at least five years. The government has not confirmed what this specified date will be but has confirmed that it will fall between March 2017 and March 2019. EU citizens and their family members who have not completed five years lawful residence will need to apply for temporary residence and continue living in the UK lawfully. They will be able to remain in the UK with temporary residence to reach the five year qualifying point for settled status.

EU citizens who arrive after the specified date will be able to live in the UK with rights under EU law until the date of the UK’s departure from the EU. From March 2019 onwards, your rights will be uncertain. You may be able to stay on a temporary basis and may or may not be able to settle in the UK in the future. The government has stated that this will depend on your circumstances and has not offered any guarantees.   

What happens if the specified date falls before the UK leaves the EU?
If the specified date is before the day in 2019 when we depart from the European Union, this could cause a great deal of confusion for EU citizens living in the UK. We could end up with a two-tier system where EU citizens who arrived before the specified date have long-term rights and those who arrived after the date could potentially be left with limited rights.

How can I apply for settled status?
If you are an EU citizen who qualifies for settled status and want to apply for this, you'll need to go through a new application process to secure your status. This application process will not be rolled out until the proposals are finalised and could be as late as March 2019.

It's important to note that this process will be different – and separate to – the existing permanent residence process in place.

Is there any advantage in applying for permanent residence now?
The proposal is for there to be a streamlined process to switch from permanent residence to settled status.

However, the Home Office proposes to deal with three million applications so it remains to be seen how streamlined the process will be in practice.

EU citizens and their family members may opt to apply for permanent residence and to switch to settled status or to wait until there are further announcements on the specified date and the process for applying for settled status. Non-EU citizens, for example the family members of EU citizens, do still need a residence document to prove their right of residence so may opt to apply for permanent residence now if they qualify.

Do the proposals improve the position for EU citizens in any way?
The requirement to secure settled status imposes a further burden on EU citizens and creates further uncertainty.

There is some limited good news contained within the proposals. The government has stated that for settled status applications, it will no longer require evidence that "economically inactive" EU citizens (such as students and self-sufficient people including stay-at-home parents and carers) have held comprehensive sickness insurance during their qualifying period of residence.

How long will I have to apply for settled status after Brexit?
According to the government, all EU citizens in the UK who qualify for settled status will be given "adequate time" to apply for their residence status after the UK leaves the EU.

Unfortunately, it has not yet provided any further clarity on the timescales.

If I'm granted settled status, which rights will I have in the UK?
EU citizens who gain settled status in the UK will have the same rights to live, work, and access benefits and healthcare as British nationals. You will not be able to hold a British passport. You will have the right to apply for British citizenship but you will likely need to have held settled status for 12 months before you can apply. 

Can my family members still join me in the UK?
The government's proposals appear to apply equally to the family members of European nationals.

How will Brexit affect my student loans?
EU students currently in the UK and students who are starting courses at a university or further education institution in the 2017/2018 and 2018/2019 academic years will be able to apply for student support. This means that you can apply for higher education and further education student loans and 'home fee' status for the duration of your course.

The government has also stated that you will be able to complete your course in the UK.

Information and one-to-one advice sessions with Simpson Millar LLP

As part of the support that the University is offering staff on immigration matters, Ashley Stothard from Simpson Millar’s Immigration Team will be visiting campus on 20 July to hold free 30 min one-to-one advice sessions.

Free advice sessions are open to both EU and non-EU international staff. 

Date: 20 July 2017

Location: HR meeting room 11.12, E C Stoner Building  

30 min sessions are bookable between 10am – 12noon and between 1pm - 4pm.  

To apply to book a session: Please email HR@leeds.ac.uk, ideally including the advice you are seeking (optional).   

Subject to demand, a further day of one-to-one sessions will be scheduled, so if you are interested, but cannot make the 20 July date, please contact HR@leeds.ac.uk to register your interest.  

You can also keep up to date with the latest immigration and Brexit developments by signing up to Simpson Millar’s newsletter.