Queen Mary and Brexit

Brexit process FAQ’s for EEA staff

Right to Work training sessions 

From April 2019, HR will be running monthly Right to Work training sessions for staff. These training sessions are for all those who manage and administer immigration and right to work procedures in departments and schools across Queen Mary. The first sessions will be held on 4 April 2019 at both Charterhouse Square and Mile End.

Book your place via the course booking system (course code PD218). For more details, contact Paul Byrne at p.byrne@qmul.ac.uk.  

News an analysis from our Queen Mary experts

Visit our Brexit media pages for news and analysis from our Brexit and UK politics experts.

Got a question? Please contact your HR Partner. 

What has been agreed about the right to work in the UK after Brexit?

The Government invoked Article 50, to trigger the formal process of withdrawing the UK from the EU, on 29 March 2017. From then until November last year, there were negotiations with the European Commission as to the immigration status of EU citizens living in the UK and of British citizens living in the EU. An agreement on citizens’ rights which allows EU citizens to continue living in the UK is in place until the end of the implementation period which will be 31 December 2020, commencing when the UK leaves the European Union on the 29 March 2019, presuming an agreement is ultimately reached to do so. If no agreement is reached, the terms of this will be varied.  

An Immigration White Paper was released in December 2018, in which recommendations have been published, regarding what the immigration system should look like post-Brexit. The paper has suggested that the new immigration system is likely to be an amended version of our current Immigration Rules, which may make it easier for employers to recruit medium to high skilled migrant workers, but no preference will be given to EU workers over non-EU migrant workers. 

Should this recommendation be implemented, EU citizens hoping to come to the UK to work after the 31 December 2020 would require permission to live, work and study in the UK. Those already in the UK and having been granted settled status, will not be required to apply for such permission.   

Currently, we understand the situation to be as follows: 

  • The UK will leave the EU on 29 March 2019;
  • settled status applications for EU and EEA citizens will open fully by the end of March 2019;
  • a testing phase which allows most applicants to seek settled status is available now
  • free movement between the UK and the EU will end;
  • there will be a transitional period in place between 29 March 2019 and 31 December 2020;
  • settled status applications will close in June 2021;
  • there is likely to be a system of immigration controls and constraints for EU citizens who want to live and work in the UK after 31 December 2020; and
  • EU workers are likely to be treated the same as non-EU migrant workers if first arriving after 31 December 2020 with an amended version of the current immigration rules in place.

The dates given in the above summary apply only in the event of a deal. For further information regarding the situation in event of a ‘no deal’ please refer to question 3: 'What is pre-settled status?'.  

What is settled status?

“Settled status” is a new requirement in immigration law which obliges EU citizens to register the fact that they live in the UK to enable them to continue to live, work and study in the UK after free movement between the UK and the EU has ended. That will need to happen between the introduction of the process and, at latest, 30 June 2021 

All employees who have lived in the UK for five years by the end of the transitional period, 31 December, should be able to obtain “settled status” if they can establish their citizenship and identity, residence and an absence of any disqualifying factors (such as serious convictions).

There will be a digital record rather than a document to confer settled status.  Employees hired after June 2021, who will need to show they have settled status, will be able to give access to this to employers via an online portal.

What is pre-settled status?

Those who arrived in the UK before 31 December 2020 but do not have five years of residency will be eligible for pre-settled status subject to the same conditions as full settled status. They can apply to convert this to full settled status once they have lived in the UK for five continuous years.

Pre-settled status will allow an individual to live, work and study in the UK for five years from the date the application is successfully granted. The Government will not inform the applicant of the date on which they need to make their application to convert this to full settled status, rather the individual should apply at the point on which they have sufficient evidence to be able to prove five years of continuous residence. Please see question 10: 'What will I need to prove?' for further details on what types of evidence can be submitted in order to evidence this.

Pre-settled status may be lost if a person leaves the UK for more than two continuous years. It is also important to note that in order to convert pre-settled status to full settled status, the individual is required to have at least six months of residence for each of the five years of continuous residence. As such, an applicant looking to convert to full settled status should not leave the UK for more than six months or risk losing the required continuity of residence.

What happens if there is no deal?

In the event of a no deal outcome, the European Union (Withdrawal) Act would mean free movement provisions continue immediately after withdrawal, but a new immigration system will be imposed for those without residence prior to 29 March 2019. The White Paper released in December 2018 suggests that the new immigration system would be implemented in January 2021 although it would be possible for this to be implemented earlier.

The UK Government is committed to introducing the EU Settlement Scheme for those resident in the UK as of 29 March 2019, regardless of whether a deal is reached. This intention was confirmed in a Policy Paper published on 6 December 2018.

The settled status scheme will enable those who are resident in the UK before 29 March 2019 to continue to live, work and study in the UK after free movement has ended and those citizens will not be subject to the new immigration system’s requirements. The effect of no-deal is to change the dates and parameters of what it currently included within the draft Agreement on citizens’ rights. 

Key changes are: 

  • Only those who were resident in the UK before the 29 March 2019 will be eligible for settled status or pre-settled status;
  • Eligible citizens will have a slightly shorter period in which to apply (ie until 31 December 2020, rather than June 2021);
  • Those who are granted settled status will continue to access in-country benefits and services on ‘broadly the same terms as now’;
  • A cut-off date for family members to join EU citizens with settled status in the UK will be imposed on 29 March 2022. 

Please keep in mind that other sections of the FAQ documents have been written with an assumption that a deal will be reached. Please refer back to this question for the relevant dates in a no-deal situation.

What about people who arrive after 29 March 2019 in a no deal situation?

For EEA citizens already working at the University and resident in the UK prior to 29 March 2019, the settled status scheme will be available to ensure they are able to continue to live, work and study in the UK after free movement has ended. However, the Government confirmed on 28 January 2019, that for EEA citizens who arrive in the UK after 29 March 2019 until 31 December 2020, a different application and immigration status will be required.

EEA citizens will continue to be able to enter the UK as now, using e-gates when travelling on a biometric passport and entering without a visa for short-term visits. They will be automatically granted leave to enter by border, which allows them to stay for up to three months and permits both work and study. However, for those wishing to stay for longer than three months, an application for European Temporary Leave to Remain will be necessary within the three months of arrival in the UK.

This status will be granted subject to identity, criminality and security checks and will provide for three years leave to remain in the UK, with the ability to work and study. EEA citizens will not be able to extend this leave, and will therefore need to apply under the new immigration system (as referred to in question 1: 'What has been agreed about the right to work in the UK after Brexit?') should they wish to stay longer than three years. This status will not lead to indefinite leave to remain, citizenship or settled status.

The initial three months’ leave to enter for EEA citizens will be free of charge, but the application for temporary leave to remain will carry a cost. The fee for this has yet to be announced.

Irish citizens will not need to apply for European Temporary Leave to Remain and will continue to have the right to enter and live in the UK under the Common Travel Area. 

Who can apply for settled status?

You currently need to be an EU citizen or a non-EU family member of an EU citizen to apply for settled status. Settled status is available to nearly all applicants, arriving in the UK before 31 December 2020, who can show five years’ continuous residence in the UK.

Those with less than five years’ continuous residence will be granted pre-settled status and may apply for settled status once they reach this five-year point. Continuous residence means you’ve been in the UK for at least six months for five years in a row.

The Government has confirmed that while the current public test phase of the settled status scheme is open only to EU residents, citizens of Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway and Switzerland will be able to apply when the scheme is fully open by 30 March 2019. 

Should Irish citizens make these applications?

The Government has advised that Irish citizens do not need to apply for either qualified, permanent or settled status, reflecting the current practice that Irish citizens are deemed to be settled in the UK on arrival for immigration purposes. That interpretation does not seem supported by the existing law, so further legislation is likely to confirm this.

What is the settled status public testing phase?

A phase to test this system works effectively was introduced in August 2018 in which the Home Office provided considerable support for employees of selected organisations in Merseyside in making their settled status applications. Only 1,053 employees submitted their information, although UK Visas and Immigration had sought 4,000 applications. All those applying were approved.

The pilot was later extended under the second phase of the testing process. From the 15 November 2018 to the 21 December 2018, the online application was open to EU citizens working for higher education institutions or overseas higher education institutions holding a Tier 4 sponsor licence. Of the 29,987 applications made during this second pilot, 27,211 of these were concluded as of the 14 January 2019. 70 per cent of these applications were granted settled status and the remainder were granted pre-settled status. Again, there were no refusals. 77 per cent of applicants said the process was “very or fairly easy” to complete.

The Government has now opened the public test phase of the scheme, as of 21 January 2019. EU citizens or those who are non-EU citizen family members of an EU citizen, are able to apply for settled status online and via an app. Only those with a valid biometric passport (an e-passport with a digital chip) or a valid biometric ‘EU-family member residence card’ are able to apply during the test phase. There will be provision for those who do not have a biometric passport to send their passports via the post once the full application process is launched in March 2019.

Only those with access to an android device with the app, EU Exit: ID Document Check, will be able to take part in the pilot. The app will be used to scan in the biometric passport/residence card chip in order to verify the applicant’s identity.

Family members of University staff can now apply during the public test phase. The application process for children under the age of 21 will be similar to that of adults. If a child is applying based on the settled status of their parent, they will not need to provide proof of residence, and instead will provide proof of their relationship to the parent. Should a child be applying independently of a parent’s status, they will need to provide proof of residence. Children 10 years old or younger will not be asked to scan their face as part of the application.

The full process will be open by the end of March 2019 and the deadline for applications to the scheme for those resident here by the end of 2020 will be 30 June 2021.

How can I apply for settled status?

The applications are made online and via a mobile app available on some Android devices (not currently available on iPhone). The intention of the scheme is that it should be streamlined and user-friendly, with existing government data used to establish whether applicants have been in the UK for the necessary period of time. It will take applicants through three stages: proving their identity, checking they are not a serious criminal, and evidencing their residence in the UK.

In summary the application process is:

  • The applicant downloads the EU Exit: ID Document Check app via Google Play store on a compatible Android device;
  • Proof of identity check - passports and biometric residence cards will be verified via the app;
  • The applicant’s face will be scanned and a photo taken for the application via the app;
  • Applicant must verify their email address via a link emailed to the email address they entered during the app stage;
  • The applicant follows a link at the end of the app stage to an online application form;
  • Proof of residence check – National Insurance (NI) numbers to be provided. If insufficient, additional evidence to be provided (see question 8: 'What is the settled status public testing phase?');
  • Applicant completes the criminality check by declaring any criminal convictions;

During the online application form, questions are asked around:

  • Dual nationality to check that the applicant is not already British;
  • Whether the applicant has permanent residency or indefinite leave to remain in the UK already;
  • What is the applicant’s UK address;
  • What is the applicant’s National insurance (NI) number;
  • Whether the applicant has been known by any other names;
  • Whether the applicant has any criminal convictions or have been involved in any terrorist activities, war crimes or genocide.

What will I need to prove?

Applicants will generally be able to upload scans or photos rather than sending hard copies of documents to UK Visas and Immigration (UKVI). The app will allow EU citizens to confirm the relevant details remotely using a mobile phone or tablet so that UKVI does not need to see the physical passport unless necessary. Evidence of this status will be digital-only for most applicants; no physical document will be issued to them.

Applicants can use their National Insurance (NI) number to help confirm when they’ve been resident in the UK. The Home Office will do an automated check of UK tax and some benefits records and that in itself is generally sufficient to establish residence. The result will be shown straight away. These records will be used to work out whether the applicant has been ‘continuously resident’ in the UK for more or less than five years.

Where an individual has been resident in the UK for less than five years, they will be informed automatically that they are eligible for pre-settled status and will merely need to confirm that they accept this status. However, there may be instances where an individual knows that they have been resident for more than the required five years and yet the Home Office check of the National Insurance (NI) number has identified gaps in the HMRC record. No reasons for this will be provided by the Home Office. In this circumstance, the applicant should not accept pre-settled status and elect to provide evidence proving that they are eligible for full settled status.

The Government has provided clarity on how to provide evidence that an applicant has been living in the UK if they are unable to confirm this through an automated check of UK tax and benefits records. Where there is insufficient data for the Home Office to be able to confirm continuous residence for five years, applicants are invited to upload photos or scans of documents as evidence of UK residence. The Home Office will tell you which periods of time they require additional evidence of.

Examples of acceptable evidence include, but is not limited to:

  • Bank statements
  • P60s/P45s
  • University certificates
  • Council tax bills
  • Letters from educational organisation confirming enrolment, attendance and completion of course
  • Student finance documents
  • Residential mortgage statements
  • Employer pension contributions
  • Annual business accounts
  • Employer contracts
  • Water, gas or electricity bills
  • Cards or letters from your GP confirming appointments 
  • Passport stamps confirming entry at the UK border 
  • Invoices for work you have done.

How much does it cost?

Applications made during the previous pilots and the public testing phase will cost £65 and be half that cost for children under 16. There is no fee for individuals who already have valid indefinite leave to remain; permanent residence or have been granted pre-settled status and are applying for settled status.

The Prime Minister announced on the 21 January 2019 that there will be no fee for applications once the scheme is fully open by the 30 March 2019. Those who have paid the £65 fee already will be refunded. 

Should I apply now or later?

For family members of EU nationals whose current residence document is due to expire, it may be better to apply for settled status as soon as possible, rather than renewing their current residency document and then switching to settled status.

For those who will reach their five year residency period in the UK between January 2019 and June 2021, it may make more sense to wait until you satisfy the requirement for settled status, rather than apply for pre-settled status now and have to apply again for settled status once reaching five years residency. However, as there is no fee for switching from pre-settled status to settled status, there is no real advantage to doing so.

Given that the application will be free as of 30 March 2019, it may be preferable to wait until this date rather than apply now and have to apply to the Government to be reimbursed £65. However, once the scheme is open fully to 3.8 million EU citizens, regardless of whether they have a biometric passport etc, it is envisioned that the processing times will be significantly slower. 

I split my time between the UK and another EU country – am I eligible for settled status?

For those who currently live in another EU state but travel regularly to and from the UK because they are employed by the University, otherwise known as ‘frontier workers’, the Government confirmed in a policy paper released in December 2018 that many of this cohort will spend enough time in the UK to qualify for status under the EU Settlement Scheme ie at least six months of the year.

For those who work at Queen Mary during the week and return to an EU country on weekends, provided they can provide evidence of residency in one of the methods highlighted in question 10: 'What will I need to prove?' (eg a letter of employment from the University), they will be eligible for settled status or pre-settled status. Given that they are being paid by Queen Mary in the UK, it is possible that the HMRC record check will be sufficient evidence and no further documents will be required to be uploaded.

Should an individual be unable to provide sufficient evidence of residence in the UK, and thus not be eligible for the settled status scheme, the Government has suggested that they will be able to obtain a separate UK immigration status which will allow them to continue 'frontier working' into the UK after exit, although further details of this have yet to be released. 

Can my application be refused?

The only basis on which those making valid applications will not qualify are applicants who do not meet the rules based on residence, criminality or security risk.

Where an application is incomplete, a caseworker will be expected to contact the applicant to rectify the issue. Applicants will be given an opportunity to submit supplementary evidence.

Those that apply before the Brexit withdrawal agreement comes into force on 30 March 2019, will have the right to administrative review of the decision to refuse, in which case a caseworker will be required to check the decision is correct. However, those who apply after 30 March 2019 will have a statutory right to appeal, which appears a more helpful remedy.

If an application is refused prior to 31 December 2020, the individual may make another application for settled status provided this is before 30 June 2021.

Applicants will be asked to declare any criminal convictions, and the Home Office will carry out its own checks in addition to this. Criminal conduct will be assessed according to current EU public policy tests for deportation until 31 December 2020. Applicants with criminal convictions who apply post 31 December 2020 will be considered against UK deportation thresholds and more likely to have their applications refused.

While applicants are being asked to declare all offences, even minor ones, the Home Office has advised that parking fines etc. will not constitute grounds for refusal. 

What will happen if I don’t apply for settled status?

This is not yet clear. There appear to be almost three years in which this may be resolved and it is likely that provision will be made for this in immigration law before then.

It is almost inevitable that many EU citizens will not make the relevant application in time. Some will be unaware it is necessary or will not believe it applies to their circumstances. Many EU citizens object to the obligation to register their presence in the UK, believing it should be protected by European law rights in any event, and will refuse to do so. Others will not qualify due to difficulty in meeting the criteria or because there may be no formal record of their presence in the UK with Government departments.

It does appear clear that it will remain necessary for EU citizens to demonstrate the right to work in the UK and, from July 2021 (at latest), that will involve proof of settled status. There will need to be consequential amendment made to the guidance regarding right to work checks to establish how employers are to comply with this requirement.

What happens if I leave the UK?

People considered to be ‘resident in the UK’ will include those outside the UK on that date but who have maintained continuity of residence, although the app itself will not work if you are trying to apply from outside of the UK.

Continuous residence means you’ve been in the UK for at least six months for five years in a row. Prior to making an application for settled status, applicants must ensure that they do not leave the UK for longer than six months during the five years of continuous residence required.

Once settled status has been granted, the Government has advised that you should be able to spend up to five years in a row outside the UK without losing your settled status.

Should I apply for Settled Status or Permanent Residency while it is still available?

Settled status applications will be significantly easier than a permanent residency application. There are fewer questions, less evidence needed and only a need to prove five continuous years of residency which, in most cases, will simply be stating your National Insurance (NI) number. Furthermore, those who may not have a straightforward permanent residency application eg a student without Comprehensive Sickness Insurance, could consider applying for settled status instead because this is no longer a requirement.

There are, however, situations where there may be an advantage for applying for permanent residence via an EEA (PR) application before March 2019, and then subsequently applying to convert this to settled status. For example:

  • those intending to apply for British citizenship, who may choose to continue with permanent residence applications in order to show this has been acquired one year before applying for citizenship (of particular relevance to German/Dutch citizens who may be unable to apply for dual-citizenship once the UK has left the EU on the 29 March 2019);
  • individuals who need to demonstrate their current immigration status now for different reasons, such as making a mortgage application;
  • individuals seeking to establish that they were permanent residents of the UK as of a specific date in the past – that may be relevant if seeking to establish children born in the UK are British, for example.

There is difficulty of relying on settled status rather than permanent residency to evidence that your child was born in the UK after you acquired a right to permanent residency, and therefore automatically qualified for British citizenship. The Government has confirmed that they have no plans to allow settled status to be backdated to the fifth anniversary of the EU national taking up residence in the UK, rather than the date of the settled status application. This is possible for permanent residency applications and therefore presents a potential benefit in applying for this rather than relying on settled status.

Anyone who is considering making such an application should bear in mind that there will, in any event, be a requirement to obtain settled status by the end of June 2021.

Can I convert my permanent residency status to settled status?

Those with permanent residency status can apply to exchange this to settled status free of charge, “subject only to criminality and security checks”.

What are the benefits of applying for British citizenship over permanent residency or settled status?

There are a small number of jobs in the UK Civil Service which are reserved for British citizens alone. Holding permanent residence or settled status would not be sufficient to qualify for permission to work in those specific roles. Anyone holding permanent residence or settled status in the UK should otherwise be able to access the UK’s job market; indeed, it may well prove an advantage to be able to live and work in European Union countries without restrictions.

In order to vote in general elections, you must be a British citizen. Otherwise, the majority of the same rights are afforded to those with permanent residency status or settled status, including access to public healthcare, schools and pensions.

The current fee for British citizenship applications is £1,330. For many people, such a cost in unfeasible and in which case the free settled status application is much preferable.

Given the precarious nature of Brexit negotiations, and the risk of a ‘no deal’, applying for British citizenship may afford a certain level of reassurance to EU citizens with concerns over what the immigration system might look like post-Brexit. However, given the policy paper released by the Government in December 2018, confirming their intention to continue with the settlement scheme regardless of no deal being reached, those already resident in the UK prior to 29 March 2019 will not be subject to the new immigration system. See question 3: 'What is pre-settled status?' for more details. 

What is the immigration and nationality status of children born in the UK?

Most children born in the UK to parents from EEA countries are likely to have the same immigration status as their parents. Those whose parents have lived in the UK for at least five years at the time of their birth may qualify for British citizenship automatically. The rules regarding this are slightly complex and depend on the date on which a child has been born in the UK:

  • children born in the UK before 2 October 2000 are automatically British if either of their parents was exercising a Qualified Person right at the time of their birth;
  • those born after that date but before 29 April 2006 are automatically British if one of their parents obtained formal confirmation of the right to live permanently in the UK before they were born;
  • if born later than this, it is necessary to show a parent has a right to permanent residence acquired before birth, not necessarily a document showing this.

It has yet to be determined how the “right to permanent residence” will be defined in the context of settled status. It is presumed that children born in the UK to parents who have settled status will still qualify for British citizenship. Arrangements need to be confirmed in respect of those whose parents have five qualifying years of residence but have not yet made the application.

There are detailed rules in place about children obtaining of British citizenship by application if born outside the UK or otherwise not matching a category above. It is unusual for a child to be registered as a British citizen if at least one of their parents is not currently British or applying at the same time, but there is discretion for caseworkers to allow this.