Status of EU citizens in the UK: what you need to know

Agreement on rights for EU citizens and their familiesbrexit

The UK government has reached an agreement with the European Union (EU) on citizens’ rights, ahead of the UK leaving the EU on 29 March 2019.

There is no need for EU citizens, or their family members, living in the UK to do anything now. If you would like to find out the latest information you can sign up for email updates.

An ‘implementation period’ will run from when we leave the EU to 31 December 2020. The rights of EU citizens and their families living in the UK will not change until 1 January 2021. Until this date, EU citizens will continue to be able to live here and access public funds and services as they do at the moment.

From later this year, EU citizens and their family members living in the UK will be able to start applying for UK immigration status through the new EU Settlement Scheme.

If you would like to find out when the scheme opens you can sign up for email updates.

People who are living in the UK by 31 December 2020 will have until 30 June 2021 to make an application for status under the scheme.

From 1 July 2021, EU citizens and their family members in the UK must hold or have applied for UK immigration status to be here legally.

You will not need to apply if you’re an Irish citizen, but may choose to do so if you wish. Rights for citizens of Norway, Iceland, Liechtenstein and Switzerland are currently being negotiated, but we intend that the settlement scheme will be open to them.

More information is available on what UK nationals travelling and living in Europe need to know.

EU citizens' rights flowchart

Settled status and pre-settled status

A guide to the EU Settlement Scheme for EU citizens and their family members is on GOV.UK. Details of the scheme are still subject to approval by Parliament.

Getting status under the scheme means you can continue to live and work in the UK as you can now. It will mean you will continue to be eligible for:

  • public services, such as healthcare and schools
  • public funds and pensions, according to the same rules as now
  • British citizenship, if you meet the requirements

The scheme will open fully by 30 March 2019. Your rights will not change until 2021 so there is no need for you to apply for status as soon as the scheme opens.

In most cases, eligibility for settled status will be based on whether you have lived in the UK for 5 years.

If you do not qualify for settled status because you have not lived in the UK for 5 years, you can be granted pre-settled status.

Pre-settled status will allow you to stay here for a further 5 years and you will be free to live and work here and will have the same access to public funds and services as you do now.

You can go on to apply for settled status once you have lived in the UK for 5 years.

Your application can only be refused for a reason covered in the Withdrawal Agreement.

This means that is you make a valid application you will be granted either settled or pre-settled status, unless:

  • you weren’t resident in the UK by 31 December 2020 (see note 1)
  • you’re refused on the grounds of your serious criminal convictions or for security reasons or fraud

Your existing close family members (a spouse, civil partner, unmarried partner, dependent child or grandchild, and dependent parent or grandparent) living in the UK or overseas are also eligible for the scheme. You’ll need to apply on behalf of your child.

If you have a child after getting settled status, they will automatically become a British citizen if they’re born in the UK. You will not need to apply for settled status on their behalf.

Full details of the scheme are available in our statement of intent.

See our case studies for examples of how individual EU citizens’ status in the UK will be affected by the UK’s exit from the EU.

Note 1: Unless you’re an existing close family member of an EU citizen living in the UK but were living outside the UK when the UK left the EU on 31 December 2020.

Permanent residence status under EU law

Settled status will replace the current permanent residence status after the implementation period ends.

A permanent residence document confirms that you have rights under EU law. In the future, EU law will no longer apply and the migration and status of EU citizens will be subject to UK law.

You will be able to exchange this document for settled status free of charge under the EU Settlement Scheme and we won’t repeat any assessment of residence.

People who already have indefinite leave to remain

If you already have indefinite leave to remain this will not be affected by the UK leaving the EU. However, settled status gives some better rights and if you would like to, you can exchange this for settled status free of charge. If you are a non-EU citizen, you will need to provide evidence of your family relationship to an EU citizen resident in the UK.

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