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

Since the result of the referendum last summer, the UK government has made it absolutely clear how important it is that we secure, as early as possible, both the rights of EU citizens in the UK and UK nationals in EU Member States.

There is no need for EU citizens living in the UK to do anything now. There will be no change to the status of EU citizens living in the UK while the UK remains in the EU.


UK offer for EU citizens in the UK

The UK government’s offer for EU citizens is:

  • People who have been continuously living here for 5 years will be able to apply to stay indefinitely by getting ‘settled status’. That means these citizens will be free to live here, have access to public funds and services and apply for British citizenship.
  • People who arrived before the cut-off date, but won’t have been here for 5 years when we leave the EU, will be able to apply to stay until they have reached the 5 year threshold. They can then also apply for settled status.
  • People who arrive after the cut-off date will be able to apply for permission to remain after the UK leaves the EU, under the future immigration arrangements for EU citizens.
  • Family dependants who are living with or join EU citizens before the UK’s exit will also be able to apply for settled status after 5 years in the UK. In these cases the cut-off date won’t apply.

The cut-off date will be agreed during the negotiations but we are clear that it shouldn’t be earlier than 29 March 2017 (the date Article 50 was triggered) or later than the date the UK leaves the EU.


Applying for a residence document

The offer sets out that all EU citizens and their families in the UK will need to apply to the Home Office for permission to stay. Once UK leaves the EU this will be required by UK law. The type of application you’ll need to make will depend on your circumstances, when you moved to the UK and how long you’ve lived here.

Home Office will be asking EU citizens to make an application for a residence document demonstrating your new settled status. Home Office will make the process as streamlined and user-friendly as possible for all individuals, including those who already hold a permanent residence document under current free movement rules. We expect the new online application system to be up and running in 2018.

Your residence document will prove (for example, to employers or public service providers) that you have permission to continue living and working legally in the UK.


Timeline for applications

At the point the UK leaves the EU, EU citizens won’t be required to leave the UK if they don’t yet have a document under the new scheme. There will be a period of permission to remain in the UK covering all EU citizens and their families. This is called a ‘grace period’. The grace period will give you time to apply for and receive your new residence document.

The grace period will last for a fixed period of time (to be confirmed during negotiations) of up to 2 years. If you haven’t received a document confirming your new immigration status by the end of this period you will no longer have permission to remain in the UK.

Brexit EU citizen rights

Permanent residence status under EU law

The settled status application process for EU citizens will be separate from the current one for documents confirming EU permanent residence status. Permanent residence status is linked to the UK’s membership of the EU and so will no longer be valid after we leave.

If you already have a document certifying permanent residence, you will still need to apply for the new settled status document. The application process for people who need to do this will be as streamlined as possible.

Under EU law you don’t need a document to confirm your residence status in the UK.


EU citizens who arrive in the UK after the cut-off date

If you arrive before the date the UK leaves the EU, regardless of when the agreed cut off date is, you won’t have to leave the UK when we leave the EU. The grace period of permission to remain in the UK will apply to you.

However, if you would like to stay in the UK after the grace period ends you must apply for permission to stay (‘leave to remain’) before that point.


UK employers and EU citizen employees

If you’re an EU citizen working in the UK or a UK business that employs an EU citizen, you don’t need to do anything now. There will be no change to the rights and status of EU citizens living in the UK before we leave the EU.

After we leave, EU citizens will need to apply for a document to prove they have permission to legally work in the UK. There will be plenty of time for them to do this, and we will work closely with businesses and others to look at how they will be affected by these changes.

We are currently looking at what the future immigration system will look like. We will ensure businesses and communities are given the opportunity to contribute their views on this.