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EU citizens in UK will need to apply for ‘settled status’

The government’s offer on EU citizens’ rights is here. It includes a new legal status and a few changes to existing rights. Initial reaction from the EU is for ‘more ambition, clarity and guarantees’.


Finally, we have an actual position from the UK government on citizens’ rights for EU citizens in the UK and Brits in the EU. It’s even got some actual detail in it too. The main headline from it being that EU citizens currently living in the UK will need to apply for ‘settled status’ to remain post-Brexit. And there will be a two-year ‘grace period’ for those wishing to apply for it to do so. After that, future (not yet known) immigration rules will apply.

Here’s a graphic in the government’s paper outlining what this basically looks like….

You can see the full document at gov.uk.

Settled status & losing right to return after two years outside of UK

‘Settled status’ will essentially be the same as the ‘indefinite leave to remain’ status that other migrants to the UK can apply for after five years’ residence. Currently, EU/EEA nationals could apply for ‘permanent residency’ status. Although not required whilst the UK is in the EU, many EU/EEA nationals have applied for it since the referendum vote to leave in the uncertainty over their status. And annoyingly, it seems that those who have already obtained ‘permanent residency’ status after completing the 85-page application form and paying the £65 fee (plus any solicitor or other fees on top of that) will also need to apply for ‘settled status’.

An important change in rights for EU citizens in the UK is that they will lose their rights to ‘settled status’ if they leave the UK for more than two years ‘unless they have strong ties here’. This puts them in line with non-EU/EEA migrants in the UK who have ‘indefinite leave to remain’ status.

In their offer, the EU wanted to basically protect existing EU rights for both EU citizens in the UK and Brits in the EU. So in line with their offer, EU citizens already in the UK would retain their free movement rights so presumably would have been able to return to the UK if they left the country for more than two years. This would also apply to Brits living in the EU. Brits would also continue to have the right to move freely between the 27 remaining EU countries. They could lose this if what is agreed ends up looking more like the UK offer.

Key details that are missing from the document relating to this new status is on the application process and fee. The government has simply said that this would be ‘as streamlined as possible’. However, a very welcome part of this new process is that there will no longer be a requirement for Comprehensive Sickness Insurance for those who were not working whilst living in the UK (e.g. student, retiree or stay-at-home parent).

Family reunification – minimum income threshold will apply for spouses

In another important change in rights, EU citizens with ‘settled status’ post-Brexit will have the same rights as British citizens wanting to bring in a non-EU/EEA spouse to live with them. This is a weakening of rights for EU citizens because Brits living in the UK need to be earning a minimum income of £18,600 to bring in a non-EU spouse.

The minimum income threshold will also extend to those wanting to bring an EU/EEA spouse to the UK post-Brexit.

For British migrants in the EU

A big concern particularly for the many British pensioners living in the EU was whether the UK government would continue to ‘uprate’ their UK state pension whilst they are in the EU and they’ll be happy to see confirmation of this in the document. The government also said it would ‘seek to protect the healthcare arrangements’ that currently apply within the EU. The UK will also seek to protect the right to a European Health Insurance Card (or equivalent) for both sets of citizens.

Legal status and enforceability

The government’s offer makes clear the European Court of Justice will not have jurisdiction over those with ‘settled status’. The document states the arrangements will be ‘enshrined in UK law and enforceable through the UK judicial system’. It adds the government is ‘ready to make commitments in the Withdrawal Agreement which will have the status of international law’. This additional line might make it easier for the EU to stomach as it has so far maintained that EU citizens’ rights in the UK should fall under the jurisdiction of the European Court of Justice.

First reaction from the EU

The initial reaction from EU chief negotiator Michel Barnier is that the UK offer does not provide the ‘same level of protection’ that currently exists in EU law, which is a fair assessment. In a tweet, Barnier said ‘more ambition, clarity and guarantees needed’.

As the document comes under further scrutiny, we’ll no doubt learn more about how the UK offer measures up against the EU offer. You can see the EU’s position on citizens rights at ec.europa.eu.


Image: © lonndubh / Shutterstock.com
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