Brexit FAQs

Brexit Frequently Asked Questions for EEA Nationals in the UK and their families

What do the commitments from the EU and the UK Government mean for me?

The EU and the UK Government have agreed the points outlined below in principle. We understand that these points will not change significantly. Any changes will depend on the outcome of the current Brexit negotiations.

What are the relevant points agreed between the EU and the UK so far?

  • EU citizens who arrived in the UK before the date we leave the EU, which is expected to be on or shortly after 29 March 2019, and who have been continuously and lawfully resident in the UK for five years will be allowed to stay indefinitely by obtaining ‘settled status’
  • EU citizens who arrived in the UK before the date we leave the EU, but have not been here for five years, will be given temporary permission to stay until they have been here for five years. Then they will be able to apply for settled status
  • Family members who are living with or who join EU citizens in the UK before the date we leave the EU will also be able to apply for settled status after five years in the UK
  • There will be a period of at least two years after the UK leaves the EU, to give EU citizens and their families sufficient time to make their applications
  • All EU citizens and their families in the UK will need to apply to the Home Office for permission to stay before the end of the two-year period. This is regardless of their arrival date and whether they already have permanent residence or documents to confirm that status
  • Certain close family members can join EU citizens in the UK for the life time of the EU citizen after the date we leave the EU, providing that they were related to the EU citizen on the date we leave and continue to be related at the point they wish to join the EU citizen in the UK. (This does not apply in the case of children born or adopted after the date we leave the EU)

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​How am I affected if I’m from a non-EU EEA member state or Switzerland?

The Government has said that it will discuss similar arrangements with Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway and Switzerland.

Can I apply for British Citizenship?

Yes, if you have lived in the UK for a continuous period of:

  • 5 years and are the spouse or civil partner of a British citizen, or
  • 6 years if you are not the spouse or civil partner of a British citizen

You will first need to get a permanent residence document (or settled status once we leave the EU) and there is additional criteria, including stricter UK absence rules than for permanent residence and a requirement to pass both a ‘Life in the UK’ and an English language test.

EEA nationals with non-EEA dependent family members with them in the UK should seek further advice before applying for British citizenship as this may affect the rights of their non-EEA dependant family members. You should also check first whether your home country will allow dual nationality – some do but others do not, and acquiring British citizenship could lead to you losing your nationality of origin.

What about Irish citizens?

The Government has indicated that Irish citizens living in the UK will not need to apply for settled status to stay.

Do I need to do anything relating to Brexit right now?

No. You do not need to do anything now unless you want to apply for a document confirming permanent residence. If you are not looking to apply for a permanent residence document, you may want to start collecting any formal, original documentation to ‘prove’ your residence in the UK as a back-up.

Documentation such as P60s or payslips might help, and for non-working, dependent family members, proof of residence could include mail at the same address as you in the UK, such as bank statements, tenancy agreements, council tax and utility bills and letters from GPs or schools etc.

What about UK nationals in the rest of the EU?

The recent report produced by the EU and the Government indicated that the same arrangements referred to within this FAQ document will apply to UK citizens living in other EU countries.

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What does ‘Settled Status’ mean?

Settled status is likely to be the same as indefinite leave to remain (ILR). ILR is a type of leave without an end date currently given to qualifying non-EU nationals after five years of continuous residence in the UK. In practice, it means that you can live and work in the UK without restriction.

ILR is similar to - but not the same as  - the permanent residence currently given to EEA national who have spent five continuous years in the UK as a worker, self-employed or self-sufficient person or a student or family member living in the same accommodation as the applicant.

What will be the criteria to get temporary permission to stay or settled status?

The EU and the UK Government have agreed that the qualifying criteria should be the same as for EEA nationals currently seeking to reside in the UK for more than three months or acquire permanent residence after 5 years. This is as a worker, a self-employed or self-sufficient person, a student or as a family member living in the same accommodation as the applicant.

To get settled status, you will need to have lived here for five years as a worker, a self-employed or self-sufficient person or as a family member without leaving the country for more than six months in any 12-month period (with a few exceptions).

Currently, you also need to have held comprehensive sickness insurance for any period that you are or have been a self-sufficient person or student during the 5-year period, but this will not be required for settled status.

How do I get temporary permission to stay or settled status?

The process hasn’t yet been confirmed, but the Government has said it will be a user-friendly and digital process.

How much will temporary permission to stay or settled status applications cost?

The government has agreed that applications should be free of charge or similar to other documents like the British passport, which is around £70.

If I already have permanent residence, do I automatically get settled status?

No, the UK government is proposing that permanent residence status will no longer be valid after the UK leaves the EU (even if you have obtained a document to confirm that status). The recent report from the Government and the EU has suggested that those with a permanent residence document will be able to exchange it for a settled status document free of charge (subject to an ID and criminality check, and confirmation of ongoing residence).

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So can I still apply for a permanent residence document now?

Yes, if you want to and are eligible. You might find it useful and reassuring to have a formal record of your permanent residence in the UK, given that the current law has not yet changed and we do not know if, how or when it will do so. As stated above, having a document confirming permanent residence is also likely to facilitate the process of obtaining settled status.

The current online application process for permanent residence document is much simpler than the previous paper form.

The application fee is £65 per person. If you have not spent more than six months outside the UK in any 12-month period of the relevant 5-year period, you are not required to list all of your absences from the UK and it allows for an immediate passport return service.

You will need to have a document confirming permanent residence if you intend to apply for British citizenship after six years in the UK.

How do I know if I am currently eligible for a permanent residence document?

If you are an EEA national who has been in the UK for five continuous years as a student, worker or self-sufficient or self-employed person or a family members living in the same accommodation as the applicant, then you will be eligible to apply for a permanent residence document.

Under the current rules, any time spent in the UK as a self-sufficient person or as a student requires you to have held comprehensive sickness insurance (private medical insurance or a European Health Insurance card) during that period. If this applies to you, but you have not held comprehensive sickness insurance during the relevant period, then you may want to seek further advice before applying. This is because it may be best for you to wait for the introduction of the new settled status process, rather than have your application for a permanent residence document formally rejected.

Can my spouse/partner and children apply for a permanent residence document at the same time as I do before we leave the EU?

If your spouse/partner is from within the EEA, they can apply for a permanent residence document if they have been living in the UK with you as your family member continuously for five years (with trips of less than 6 months away from the UK in each 12-month period). This applies even if they have not been here as a worker, a self-employed or self-sufficient person or a student.

This will also be the case if your family members are from a country outside the EEA but they will need proof of their status in the form of a family permit or residence card from the beginning of their time in the UK.

If your family members have not been in the UK with you for five years when you apply for a permanent residence document, they may still apply at the same time as you, but will be issued with a registration certificate (EEA nationals) or residence card (non-EEA nationals) instead of a permanent residence document.

How long does it take to get a permanent residence document?

The Home Office is required to process EEA applications within six months, but the recent increase in applications could make it longer. In some cases, particularly where people have applied online, the Home Office has approved applications well before the six-month deadline.

Can I lose permanent residence once I have it?

Currently you can only lose permanent residence if you leave the UK for more than two consecutive years. However, once the UK leaves the EU, permanent residence will not be recognised, hence the need to apply for settled status.

According to the Government and the EU recent report, those who obtain a settled status document will only lose that status if they are absent from the UK for more than five consecutive years.

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Disclaimer

Please note: these frequently asked questions (FAQs) are general statements to help you to understand the Brexit situation in a plain and simple way. They should not be considered as legal advice or opinions and do not cover individual situations. These FAQs are based on information available from the government.

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Page last updated:

10 May 2019

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