Brexit has changed the way EU and EEA nationals can live and work in the UK. The UK exited from the EU on 31 January 2020. EEA/Swiss nationals and their family members had to have entered the UK by the end of the transition period (31 December 2020) to qualify for status under the EU Settlement Scheme (EUSS), which closed for most applicants on 30 June 2021 (but remains for applicants in certain circumstances).
What Is The EU Settlement Scheme?
The Home Office introduced the EU Settlement Scheme as a way for EU and EEA nationals to hold lawful immigration status in the UK after Brexit. The scheme will classify your immigration status as either ‘settled’ or ‘pre-settled’. You’ll get settled status if you’ve been living in the UK continuously for five years. If you’ve lived in the UK for less than five years you get pre-settled status which will last for five years. Once you’ve lived in the UK continuously for five years you can apply for settled status. Settled and pre-settled status will allow you and your family to live and work freely in the UK. You can also leave and enter the UK as you please. After 12 months with settled status (six continuous years of living in the UK) you can then apply for naturalisation to become a British citizen.
What About My Family?
Under UK Immigration Rules, family members of an EU or EEA national are considered to be a:
- Spouse or civil partner
- Child or grandchild of you and/or your spouse or civil partner, if they’re under 21 or financially dependent on you
- Parent or grandparent of you or your spouse or civil partner who’s financially dependent on you.
If your family are already with you in the UK, they can apply to the Settlement Scheme at the same time. If your family is still abroad they can still join you in the UK after Brexit. If you’re married or in a civil partnership, you’ll need to prove that your relationship is genuine for your spouse or partner to join you. For unmarried partners of EU and EEA nationals, they would also be able to join you in the UK before 1 January 2021. You’ll also need to prove your relationship is genuine. Once they’re in the UK, they’ll need to apply to the EU Settlement Scheme.
What if you missed the 30 June 2021 deadline?
The EU Settlement Scheme (EUSS) allows EEA and Swiss citizens who were living in the UK before 31 December 2020 to protect their rights to live and work in the UK. The deadline for most people to apply was 30 June 2021. EEA and Swiss citizens who have been living in the UK for five years or more could apply for settled status. This is equivalent to indefinite leave to remain (ILR), and those holding settled status for at least 12 months can usually apply for British citizenship.
EEA and Swiss citizens who have been living in the UK for less than five years can apply for pre-settled status. Once they meet the five-year residency threshold, they can apply for settled status and must do so before their pre-settled status expires.
Individuals with settled or pre-settled status can continue to enjoy the rights they had when the UK was part of the EU. This means they can live, work and study in the UK, and they can travel in and out of the country. They can also access public funds and use the NHS for free.
Who is exempt from the 30 June 2021 deadline?
You can still apply under the EUSS if you or a family member were living in the UK by 31 December 2020. You must also either:
- meet one of the criteria for a later deadline to apply
- have ‘reasonable grounds’ for not applying by 30 June 2021
You can also apply if you already have pre-settled status, and you’re applying for settled status.
Who has a later deadline to apply?
For some people, the deadline of 30 June 2021 does not apply. This is true if you’re one of the following:
- the family member of someone from the EU, Switzerland, Norway, Iceland or Liechtenstein who was living here by 31 December 2020, and you join them in the UK on or after 1 April 2021
- applying for your child, who was born or adopted in the UK on or after 1 April 2021
- the family member of an eligible person of Northern Ireland, but they could not move back to the UK by 31 December 2020 without you – you must be from outside the EU, Switzerland, Norway, Iceland or Liechtenstein
- exempt from immigration control, or you stopped being exempt from immigration control after 30 June 2021
- here with limited leave to enter or remain in the UK (for example, if you’re here on a work or study visa) which expires after 30 June 2021
- a family member of a British citizen who you lived with in the EU, Switzerland, Norway, Iceland or Liechtenstein – you must have lived with them in that country by 30 December 2020, and returned to the UK with them
‘Reasonable grounds’ for why you did not apply by the deadline
If you did not apply by 30 June 2021, or by the deadline for your circumstances if it’s later, you may still be able to apply to the scheme. You will need to have ‘reasonable grounds’ for why you did not apply by the deadline.
There are many different reasons that can be included as reasonable grounds for not applying by the deadline.
There is not a complete list – if you have a reason not listed here, you can still apply and your reason will be considered.
Some reasonable grounds are, for example, if:
- you’re a child, or applying for your child, and you did not know you needed to apply
- your parent, guardian or local authority did not apply for you when you were a child
- you have, or had, a medical condition which prevented you from applying
- you lacked the physical or mental capacity to apply
- you have care or support needs, or those caring for you were unaware of the deadline
- you’ve been the victim of modern slavery
- you’ve been in an abusive or controlling relationship
- you did not have internet access, or access to relevant documents
- you came to the UK on a work or study visa and became eligible to apply to the EU Settlement Scheme while you were here, but did not know you could apply
- you already have indefinite leave to enter or remain, and you did not know you could apply to the scheme
- you had permanent residence status or a residence document that stopped being valid after 30 June 2021, and you did not know you needed to apply to the scheme
- you had difficulty accessing support to apply because of coronavirus (COVID-19) restrictions
- another compelling practical or compassionate reason prevented you applying
One potentially wide-ranging ground is a ‘compelling practical or compassionate reason’ preventing a person from applying. The government has confirmed that this includes individuals being prevented from applying due to issues relating to COVID-19.