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Brexit update – UK settlement system for EU citizens

The Home Office and Department for Exiting the European Union issued a technical note today. It covered citizens’ rights and administrative procedures in the UK, setting out details on the procedures for a streamlined applications system for EU citizens.

The note is the long-awaited first document that offers a concrete proposal for the application procedures for EU nationals once the UK leaves the EU.

It is clear that EU citizens wishing to remain in the UK will have to regularise their status by making applications to the Home Office. There will be a specified period of time within which all EU citizens in the UK will be required to apply for a document certifying their status.

Application process

Witnessing the recent delays in decision-making within the European casework at the Home Office, it is reasonable to expect a complicated and bureaucratic system. The current system is simply not fit for the mammoth task ahead. The Home Office promises a completely new system, with newer technology and support for and engagement with applicants.

Workers may find preparing applications easier than those who are self-employed, self-sufficient or students. This is because the Home Office would be able to access data held by HMRC, DWP, local council and employment records.

The Home Office promises to make the application easier for those who are in the UK as students or are self-sufficient, by not requiring proof of the dreaded comprehensive sickness insurance.

There will be a transition period, likely to be two years, within which EU citizens will be required to resolve their status.

The fee for applying for a status document is currently £65. The application fee which is promised post-Brexit, should not be more than the cost of a British passport, which is currently £72.50.

When to apply?

Although the Home Office continues to advise that EU citizens do not have to submit any applications at the moment, our advice is to submit an application for residence documents or permanent residence as soon as possible.

The technical note is still only an informal document offering information rather than any guarantee of rights.

Applicants who entered the UK before the specified end date would obtain a temporary status, and will be able to apply for settled status when they reach five years’ continuous residence.

Applicants who will be in the UK for a continuous period of five years or more will be able to apply for settled status.

Who will be refused?

Only applicants who entered the UK and became a qualified person (i.e. worker, self-employed, self-sufficient or student) after 29 March 2017,  or those applying with issues relating to criminality or security, will be refused.

Do you already hold valid EEA permanent residence documents?

Those who already hold valid EEA permanent residence documents will be able to simply exchange it for a settled status document. The documents that will be expected for the exchange include a passport sized photograph, national identity card or EU passport, and proof of ongoing residence.

To huge relief, the previous residence assessment will not be required, and the Home Office is promising a reduced fee.

Our conclusions

The note offers a new information about the application process, but a lot of important and expected information remains behind the curtains.

In many instances the note refers to the Withdrawal Agreement, for example: ‘individuals covered by the Withdrawal Agreement’ or ‘conditions as prescribed in the Withdrawal Agreement’. However, who those individuals are and what those particular conditions are is not explained.

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