European nationals

The UK government has reached an agreement with the European Union (EU) on citizens’ rights, ahead of the UK leaving the EU on 29 March 2019. An ‘implementation period’ will run from when we leave the EU to 31 December 2020. The rights of EU citizens and their families living in the UK will not change until 1 January 2021. Until this date, EU citizens will continue to be able to live here and access public funds and services as they do at present.

What status children and young people from European countries living in the UK will be given during the implementation period and after 1 January 2021 is uncertain. The Mayor has set up an advice portal for European Londoners where people can get more information. The portal provides information about European citizens’ rights post-Brexit and links to advice and support services in London. It also directs users to expert legal advice, support services and guidance on employment rights.

It is important to consider whether a child or young person should take action now to secure their EU rights.

Is the child or young person automatically a British citizen or can they apply for British citizenship?

Given the uncertainty about what will happen with Brexit, some European children and young people living here may want to check whether they already have British citizenship, or whether they can apply to become a British citizen. If they do this, it is important to consider if they can hold both British citizenship and their original citizenship. The best way to find out is to contact the embassy of the relevant country and ask whether they allow dual citizenship.

Applying for permanent residence documents

While the UK is still in the EU, citizens of countries in the European Economic Area can continue to apply to the Home Office based on EU law as before. The most relevant application is for a document from the Home Office recognising that they have acquired permanent residence in the UK because they have exercised Treaty rights in the UK for five years. For example, the young person has worked, studied (with comprehensive sickness insurance) or been self-employed in the UK continuously for five years.

Family members can apply for a permanent residence certificate too. It is important that parents include children and dependent young people in their applications for permanent residence documents.

After the UK leaves the EU, the government has said these documents will stop being legally valid. However, it is still important to apply now if you are eligible. The government has said that if you have a permanent residence document, you will not have to pay a fee to make an application for the new ‘settled status’ that it is introducing. It has also suggested that having a permanent residence document will make going through the new process easier.

Applying for a permanent residence document now is most important if:

  • you want to become a British citizen. You need a document confirming permanent residence before you can apply for British citizenship
  • you need to show that you were settled in the UK when your child was born so you can show that they are automatically British. Or you need to show that you became settled in the UK so that your child can apply to become British. You do not need a permanent residence document for your child’s passport or citizenship application, but it may make it easier
  • you want to sponsor family members to come to the UK under the Immigration Rules (rather than EU law)
  • you have automatically acquired permanent residence, but since then you have not been living in the UK continuously and may not be living here continuously during the Brexit period. For example, a family may have lived and worked in the UK for five years or more, but now be temporarily transferred to work in another country. Or an EEA young person may have grown up in the UK but now be studying or working abroad temporarily. Under EU law, permanent residence would be kept if the person returns to the UK at least every two years.
The new system for settled status

On 21 June 2018 the government published a ‘Statement of Intent’, which includes up-to-date information about their intention to launch an EU Settlement Scheme in Autumn 2018. EU citizens and their families will be able to apply for settled status through the EU Settlement Scheme.

The government expects the new system for EU nationals living in the UK to be open to everyone from 30 March 2019. The exact details of what people will need to show to be eligible for the new settled status are still unknown. However, the government has indicated that you will need to show five years’ continuous residence in the UK. If you cannot show that you have lived in the UK for five years you may be granted ‘pre-settled status’ instead. You can then go on to apply for settled status once you can show you’ve lived in the UK for five years.

There will be no requirement, as there is now for some people, to have held comprehensive sickness insurance. There will also be no requirement to show that you are working, or looking for work.

The government has said that the application fee will be £65 for an adult and £32.50 for a child under 16. The cost will be free for children in care, and those who have a permanent residence document.