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The rights of EU citizens after Brexit

At present, there is no legal requirement for EU citizens to have a document certifying their immigration status. An EU passport is enough to show that you have the right to live and work in the UK. However, after Brexit this will change, and all EU citizens must apply for appropriate documents.

On Brexit day (29 March 2019), EU nationals (and their family members) will maintain their rights in the UK until the implementation period comes to an end on 31 December 2020. This period will give EU citizens and UK businesses time to adjust to the new laws and processes that will be in place after Brexit.

EU citizens who want to continue living in the UK will need to apply for pre-settled status or settled status under the EU Settlement Scheme. This will open the day after Brexit: 30 March 2019.

Pre-settled status

EU citizens and their families who will not have lived in the UK continuously for five years by 31 December 2020 will need to apply for pre-settled status. This will allow you to live and work in the UK until you reach the five-year threshold. Thereafter, you may apply for settled status.

Settled status

If an EU citizen has lived in the UK continuously for five years by 31 December 2020, they will be eligible for settled status. Settled status is similar to indefinite leave to remain in that it allows you to stay indefinitely in the UK.

Applying for settled status

EU citizens currently living in the UK or who move to the UK before 31 December 2020 will need to apply for their new settled status before 30 June 2021 or 31 December 2020 if the UK leaves the EU without a deal. 

The applications for the new statuses are relatively straightforward and will be free of charge. The application criteria have been simplified and evidence of employment is unlikely to be necessary. 

To streamline the process, the UK government has also launched a Brexit app. The app will allow you to scan your identity documents and upload it to the system. The app is currently only available to Android devices.

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EU Settlement Scheme pilot in second phase

The UK government is testing the application process for the EU Settlement Scheme. The first phase was only open to EU nationals (and their family members) who worked for selected NHS trusts. In November 2018, the scheme moved into the second phase of testing. This allowed EU nationals (and their family members) who work in the healthcare sector (private and NHS), dentistry and care services to apply.

We recently successfully processed an application for the new settled status for an EU citizen. We received the approval letter on the day of the application and it confirmed that our EU client was granted indefinite leave to remain in the UK. Our client will now look forward to naturalising as a British citizen after a further 12 months of residence in the UK.

We strongly encourage every EU citizen and their non-EU family members who are eligible to do so, to participate in phase two of the pilot EU scheme.

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EU nationals wanting to naturalise as British citizens in less than a year

One of the requirements for naturalisation as a British citizen is that the applicant is a permanent resident or holds indefinite leave to remain/enter for 12 months immediately before the application.

It is important to note that this permanent residence status can be issued by operation of law (and not merely by application). If you have been resident in the UK for more than five years, you were most likely “deemed” a permanent resident at an earlier date in the past. In cases where permanent residence was issued automatically in the past, an EU national may not have to wait a further 12 months to naturalise as a British citizen.

You may apply to naturalise as a British citizen if you:

Please note: You should seek advice from an experience UK immigration and citizenship specialist  before taking any further steps towards British naturalisation.

Dual nationality

There are several European countries who only permit dual nationality with another EU country. If/when the UK leaves the EU these countries may change regulations and not allow such dual nationality. As a result, acquiring British nationality could affect your current citizenship status. You should check with your embassy what their current policy is towards dual nationality.

Child born in the UK to EU nationals

It is possible for a child (under the age of 18 years) born in the UK to non-British parents to register as a British citizen if:

  • One of the parents was a permanent resident (even if this is a “deemed” status in law), British citizen or Irish citizen at the time the child was born – in which case the child is automatically a British citizen at birth
  • One of the parents subsequently becomes a permanent resident (even if this is a “deemed” status in law), British citizen or Irish citizen (though this must take place before the child turns 18)
  • The child lives continuously in the UK for the first 10 years of their life
  • The child is born stateless (i.e. without acquiring the nationality of the parents automatically at birth), though an application to register the child must take place before the child turns 18

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