Queen Mary and Brexit

Brexit process FAQ’s for EEA students

You will find below a detailed set of Frequently Asked Questions which have been written for QMUL students by a lawyer and were last updated on 12 April 2019. These include information on your right to reside in the UK after Brexit, applying under the EU Settlement Scheme, travelling in and out of the UK, and accessing healthcare.

There is also information for our EEA students, including information about funding, on the Queen Mary Advice and Counselling Service website.

Queen Mary arranged briefing sessions for Queen Mary EEA students on Wednesday 13 and Wednesday 20 March 2019. These sessions were run by immigration lawyers to help our students understand their rights in the UK and to provide clarity and guidance in making a settled status application if required.

For information about how to apply for the settlement scheme you can view slide 13 onwards from the Briefing Session of 20 March – click here: Settled Status slideshow [PDF 1,352KB]

A recording of the session from 13 March is available to view here: echo360.org.uk/media/0ff433bf-0e71-4793-a586-c4415cdbe77b/public (Queen Mary login required). If you have problems viewing the recording, please click here to enrol via QMplus.

 

 

What has been agreed about EEA citizens’ rights in the UK after Brexit?

The Government invoked Article 50, to trigger the formal process of withdrawing the UK from the EU, on 29th 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, 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 for those arriving in the UK 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 EEA workers over non-EEA migrant workers.

Should this recommendation be implemented, EEA citizens hoping to come to the UK to study after the 31 December 2020 would require permission to live, work and study in the UK in line with the new requirements. 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 was due to leave the EU on 29 March 2019;
  • The EU granted an extension to article 50 meaning that the UK’s exit from the EU was delayed;
  • It is currently unclear on what date the UK will leave the EU (“Brexit day”) as this depends on whether a deal is reached although it is anticipated that this will now be 31 October 2019;
  • settled status applications for EU and EEA citizens opened fully as of 30 March 2019;
  • free movement between the UK and the EU will end;
  • there will be a transitional period in place between the date that the UK leaves the EU 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 EEA citizens who want to live, study and work in the UK after 31 December 2020; and
  • EEA students and workers are likely to be treated the same as non-EEA migrants 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 5.  

Please note, the Government includes Swiss nationals in their definition of EEA and the references to EEA throughout this document should be read as such.

What is settled status?

“Settled status” is a new requirement in immigration law which obliges EEA citizens to register the fact that they live in the UK and apply for the right 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. 

Those who have lived in the UK for less than five years at the time they apply will be issued with “pre-settled status” (see below), which enables continued residence.  All EEA nationals 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.  Should an EEA citizen wish to commence study or seek employment after June 2021, they will need to show they have pre-settled or settled status, and will be able to give access to this to employers via an online portal by providing a ‘share code’. For those who have not applied under the Settlement Scheme by this date, they will need to apply to study and work in the UK under the new immigration system which we anticipate being introduced in January 2021.

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 5 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 11 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 (other than for an “important reason” – see question 19) or risk losing the required continuity of residence.

I’ve lived in the UK for more than five years but have since left for more than six months, am I only eligible for pre-settled status?

For those who have in the past obtained the full five years of residence in the UK, despite the fact that Settled Status cannot be backdated to the date when the applicant originally completed their original five years of continuous residence, that original period can be used for the assessment provided the applicant has not left the UK for a period of five continuous years in the meantime.

Although the automated checks undertaken by the Home Office against HMRC and DWP records will only cover the seven years immediately preceding the application, the five year period relied upon to qualify for settled status can be any five year period.

Where the system does not automatically recognise the individual as having achieved five years of residence, the applicant has the opportunity to upload additional evidence to fill the gap in the seven year period that has been checked or to add evidence of a different, historical five year period e.g. confirmation that they attended school in the UK between 1990 and 1995 and confirm via the online declaration that they haven’t been absent from the UK for five consecutive years since that period ended.

Individuals may therefore be eligible for full settled status rather than accepting pre-settled status and having to build up the five years of residence again. 

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 Brexit day. 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 Brexit day, 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 Brexit day 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 Brexit day will be eligible for settled status or pre-settled status;
  • Eligible citizens will have a slightly shorter period in which to apply i.e. 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 the 29 March 2022 (this may be amended due to the extension provided on article 50 although this has yet to be confirmed).

 

It will also be necessary for those arriving after the date of a “no deal” Brexit to apply for European Temporary Leave to Remain (see below). 

 

Please bear 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.

I’m already resident in the UK, but what happens if I am outside of the UK on the date of Brexit?

In a deal scenario, free movement between the UK and the EU continues during the transitional period (i.e. Brexit day - 31 December 2020). Both those who were resident in the UK and EEA citizens who are newly arrived in the UK will have until the 30 June 2021 to apply under the Settled Status Scheme. Being outside of the UK on Brexit day will not impact this.

If no deal is reached between the EU and the UK, the settled status scheme will be available to EEA citizens who were resident in the UK prior to Brexit day, provided they have not left for more than 6 months. Upon returning to the UK after Brexit day, the individual would simply have to provide evidence of residence in the UK in the past 6 months when applying for settled or pre-settled status, which demonstrates that they were resident prior to Brexit day. Depending on the duration of time spent resident in the UK prior to Brexit, the individual would receive either pre-settled status or full settled status.

In either a deal or no deal scenario, there is no requirement to apply for settled status prior to Brexit day or to carry evidence or your residence when traveling across the border. As explained in question 6 below, if there is no deal, 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.

For example, if a student leaves the UK over the Easter holidays, and therefore might potentially return after Brexit day, they will not need to evidence settled status when crossing the border. Those who have settled status will have this recognised electronically when scanning their passports and those who have yet to apply for the scheme will be able to enter without a visa and apply under the Settled Status Scheme upon their return provided this is before the deadline for applying.

What about people who arrive after Brexit day in a no deal situation?

For EEA citizens already studying or working at the University and resident in the UK prior to Brexit day, 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 Brexit day and 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) 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.

What happens to Erasmus+ (EU's programme to support education, training, youth and sport) in the event of a no deal?

If the UK leaves the EU without a deal, students who are currently abroad through the Erasmus+ Programme will continue to receive funding during the 2018/19 academic year. For those students who hold offers to go abroad through the Erasmus+ Programme, funding will depend on whether the UK is able to negotiate continued access to the programme.

The worst case scenario would be that the UK cannot negotiate continued access to the Erasmus+ Programme and it does not put a replacement in place. In this case, Queen Mary will sign exchange agreements with our European partner institutions, just as we have with non-European partners.

Who can apply for settled status?

As of 30 January 2019, the EU Settlement Scheme is now open to all EEA citizens (including Switzerland) and non-EEA family members of EEA citizen’s. Settled status is available to nearly all applicants, arriving in the UK before 31st 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.

From 9 April 2019, EEA citizens and certain family members will be able to apply under the scheme from outside the UK, so that they can obtain status, without needing to travel here in order to make the online application, based on their previous residence in the UK.

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. Irish citizens are able to make the applications in any event and may choose to do this.     

What was 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 1053 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 pilot 2, 27,211 of these were concluded as of the 14 January 2019.  70% of these applications were granted settled status and the remainder were granted pre-settled status. Although there were also a significant number of applications which were not processed, there were no refusals. 77% of applicants said the process was “very or fairly easy” to complete.

The Government opened the public test phase of the scheme from 21 January 2019 to 30 March 2019. EU citizens or are non-EU citizen family members of an EU citizen, were 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’ were able to apply during the test phase.

Only those with access to an android device with the app, EU Exit: ID Document Check, were 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 or students were able to apply from 21 January 2019. The application process for children under the age of 21 is 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 opened on 30 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 although the intention is to make this available from the end of 2019). 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:

  1. The applicant downloads the EU Exit: ID Document Check app via Google Play store on a compatible Android device;

b.    Proof of identity check – passports, national identity cards and biometric residence cards (for non-EEA family members) will be verified via the app;

c.     The applicant’s face will be scanned and a photo taken for the application via the app;

d.    Applicant must verify their email address via a link emailed to the email address they entered during the app stage;

e.    The applicant follows a link at the end of the app stage to an online application form;

f.     Proof of residence check – National Insurance numbers to be provided. If insufficient or the applicant does not have a national insurance number, additional evidence to be provided (see question 13);

 

  • Applicant completes the criminality check by declaring any criminal convictions.

 

 

If you don’t have an android device or biometric document/machine readable national identity card, it is possible to do the application without using the app by following this link to start the application online. You will need to send your document via the post if using this service.

A link to the online application form is provided once you have completed the app stage. To re-enter your application once you have started, follow this link.

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 number (applicant to select no if they do not have one);
  • Whether the applicant has been known by any other names;
  • Whether the applicant has any criminal convictions or has 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. The app will allow EEA citizens to confirm the relevant details remotely using a mobile phone or tablet so that UKVI does not need to see the physical passport/national identity card 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 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. If the applicant does not have a national insurance number, this does not mean that they will not be eligible to settled status, it merely means that the Government is unable to make the automated check. The applicant should select ‘no’ when asked whether they have a national insurance number and will need to provide further documents as evidence of residence (please see below).

 

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 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;
  • Letters from educational organisation confirming enrolment, attendance and completion of course;
  • University certificates;
  • Letters from school or college to confirm attendance;
  • Student finance documents;
  • Employer contracts;
  • P60s/P45s;
  • Council tax bills;
  • Residential mortgage statements;
  • Employer pension contributions;
  • Annual business accounts;
  • 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.

Will I need to provide proof of Comprehensive Sickness Insurance for the settled status application?

Comprehensive Sickness Insurance (“CSI”) would usually mean holding a European Health Insurance Card of a private health insurance policy. Whilst there is a requirement for permanent residence applications for EEA citizens coming to the UK as either a student or a self-sufficient person to prove that they have had CSI in place for at least five years, the Government has confirmed that evidence of CSI is not required for the Settled Status Scheme. The UK has decided, as a matter of domestic policy, that the main requirement for eligibility under the settlement scheme will be continuous residence in the UK.

 

When the UK leaves the EU, permanent residence applications will cease to exist, having been replaced by the Settled Status Scheme. As such, to continue paying for CSI would no longer to a requirement for EEA students in order to obtain pre settled status or settled status. However, given the uncertain nature of negotiations between the UK and the EU at present, it may be advisable to continue to pay CSI until the ‘waiver’ of this prior requirement has been confirmed in law in both a deal and no-deal scenario.

Will I have access to the NHS?

EEA citizens will continue to be able to access NHS services as they do now until 30 June 2021 (31 December 2020 if no deal) regardless of having made an application for settled or pre-settled status. Those who apply to the EU Settlement Scheme successfully will have access beyond this date if granted either settled status or pre-settled status.  

How much does it cost?

The Prime Minister announced on the 21 January 2019 that there is no fee for applications made after the 30 March 2019. Those who have paid the £65 fee already will be automatically refunded and applicants do not need to request the refund.

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.

Given that the scheme opened fully to 3.8 million EEA citizens on the 30 March 2019, regardless of whether they have a biometric passport etc., the Home Office have envisioned a spike in the amount of applications and as such the processing times will be slower than previously.

The Government has confirmed that regardless of whether a deal is reached between the UK and the EU, the Settled Status Scheme will continue, but with slightly different time scales (see question 5). As such, there should be no specific benefit of obtaining settled status prior to Brexit day in terms of securing these rights, other than the benefits mentioned above.

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

For those who currently live in another EEA 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 i.e. at least six months of the year.

For those who work or study at QMUL during the week and return to an EEA country on weekends, provided they can provide evidence of residency in one of the methods highlighted in question 13 e.g. a letter of from the University, they will be eligible for settled status or pre-settled status. Given that employees will be being paid by QMUL 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.

What if I have been absent from the UK due to studying abroad or because I have interrupted my studies?

For students who have been absent from the UK for one period longer than six months during the five years of continuous residence required for settled status, due to having studied abroad as part of their course or having interrupted studies, UKVI has confirmed that this will not break the continuity of residence. Provided the absence was for a “important reason” i.e. study as part of a UK course or serious illness, the student will be eligible for settled status even though they were not resident in the UK for at least six months of each of the five years. A break for this reason will not cause the continuity of residence to break for the purposes of pre-settled status either and will also benefit students going on placements going forwards during the transitional period (provided they were resident before Brexit day in a no deal scenario) e.g. student currently studying at QMU and leaving for a placement year in September 2019.

In order to demonstrate their residence and absence for a “important reason”, the student may upload a letter during the application process from the University confirming enrolment, attendance and details of the study abroad arrangement (including dates of departure and return).

Individuals must take care that they do not have more than six months of absence on either side of the year which they are applying this exemption to, as more than one period in the five years will break the continuity of residence.

What do I do if I’m currently outside of the UK studying abroad?

For students who are currently on a study abroad arrangement and will therefore potentially be outside the UK on Brexit day, they will be able to enter the UK with their EEA passports as they do now (please see question 7).

Upon their return, students will be able to apply under the Settled Status Scheme until the deadline of 31 December 2020 (30 June 2021 if a deal is reached). The student may upload evidence of residence for the required period to prove that they were resident in the UK prior to the study abroad period, and a letter from the University confirming their enrolment, attendance and details of the study abroad arrangement to explain the gap of more than six months residency. As explained above, this should not break the continuity or accumulation of years of residency.

What do I need to be aware of if I am travelling to Europe after Brexit?

If a deal is reached, traveling to and from the UK will remain the same during the transitional period i.e. until the 31 December 2020.

The passport rules for travel to most countries in Europe will change if the UK leaves the EU without a deal e.g. you will be required to have at least 6 months left on your passport from the date of your arrival. You are advised to travel with your passport as whilst the Government has confirmed that ID cards will remain valid for travel to the UK initially, as they introduce the new immigration system, they cannot guarantee that EEA citizens will be able to use these to enter the UK indefinitely. Check here for further information.

For EEA citizens who have been granted settled or pre-settled status, they will be able to continue to enter the UK using their passport as no physical document is provided to evidence settled status. Settled status is an electronic status and should be linked to your passport although you may wish to carry the letter confirming the decision as an extra precaution against being held up at border.

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, 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 this 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 their 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.

Whilst 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 EEA 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 EEA citizens object to the obligation to apply for settled status, 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 EEA citizens to demonstrate the right to study and work in the UK and, from July 2021 (at latest), that will involve proof of settled status.

If you will have completed your course before December 2020 and intend to leave the UK, there may be an advantage of applying for settled status or pre-settled status before you leave. Settled status will allow you to return to the UK to study and work indefinitely provided you return within 5 years. Pre-settled status will allow you to return to the UK to study and work for a period of 5 years (or indefinitely if converted to full settled status), provided you return within 2 years. This will allow you the opportunity of returning to the UK to complete a further period of study or commence work should you choose to do so after completing your current course at QMUL.

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. As of the 9 April 2019 the application will be available 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. Therefore, 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, other than for an “important reason” (see question 19). If you have previously completed five years of continuous residence in the UK, provided you have not left for a period of five years continuously, you should still be eligible for settled status if you return and make your application before the deadline (see question 4).

Once settled status has been granted, the Government has advised that you should be able to spend up to five consecutive years 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 number.  Furthermore, those who may not have a straightforward permanent residency application e.g. 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);
  • 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 in 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 EEA national taking up residence in the UK; it will simply be deemed as granted on the date the settled status application was approved. “Backdating” the date of permanent residence 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, “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 EEA 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 Brexit day will not be subject to the new immigration system. See question 5 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 2nd 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 29th 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.