Immigration was one of the key issues of debate during the Brexit campaign and one of the burning questions since last year’s vote has been what the impact leaving the European Union will be on the millions of EU nationals who currently reside in the UK and those UK citizens who currently live in other EU countries.
Theresa May has now set out her proposal to safeguard the rights of those individuals, by offering qualifying EU citizens the option to apply for settled status in the UK. Obtaining settled status will entitle an individual to live and work in the UK without restriction, to access public funds, and to apply for British citizenship.
Qualifying for settled status
To qualify for settled status, an individual must have been resident in the UK before a specified date, be resident in the UK at the time of the application, and have at least five years’ continuous residence in the UK. The ‘specified date’ is yet to be determined, but the government has said that it will fall between 27th March 2017 and the date that the UK formally withdraws from the UK.
If an EU citizen has been resident in the UK before the specified date, but has not accrued five years’ continuous residence at the time of the UK’s exit from the EU, they will be able to apply for temporary status in order to remain resident in the UK until they have accumulated five years, after which they will be eligible to apply for settled status.
If an EU citizen moves to the UK after the specified date, they will be allowed to remain in the UK on a temporary basis and subject to new rules (which are not yet known), but their eligibility to apply for settled status is not guaranteed.
Spouses and dependants who join a qualifying EU citizen in the UK before the UK’s formal withdrawal from the EU will be able to apply for settled status after five years, irrespective of the specified date, provided that they are in a ‘genuine relationship’ with the EU citizen. However, following the UK’s formal withdrawal, EU citizens with settled status will not be entitled to bring their spouse to the UK to live with them unless they meet the minimum income threshold, which is currently £18,600.
The application process
EU citizens will need to apply for a residence card to prove their right to live and work in the UK under the new regime. No details of the application process have been released yet, although we know that the government wants to make it a smooth and simple process.
Irish citizens in the UK
Irish citizens who live and work in the UK will not have to apply for settled status, because their rights will remain protected by the Common Travel Area, which provides for open borders between the UK and the Republic of Ireland (as well as the Isle of Man and the Channel Islands).
What about UK citizens living in the EU
The government’s proposal hopes that reciprocal arrangements will be put in place to protect UK citizens living in other EU countries by offering similar settled status. The onus in on Theresa May and the government to reach an agreement with the European Union on this issue in the next two years.
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