Brexit: What you need to know

The Mayor, Sadiq Khan, has been clear that EU citizens living in London belong and are welcome in our great city. To make sure EU citizens and their families have all the information they need about living in London after Brexit we have created this hub. We have launched a few resource sections to give you clear and impartial information and, if required, guide you to further support and advice.

The UK voted to leave the European Union (EU) in June 2016. Below we have provided answers to some of the questions you may have about this decision and how Brexit impacts you.

Where there are explanations of terms and phrases used on this page, you will find a pink icon next to the word. You can also read these explanations on our glossary page.

What is Brexit?

Brexit is the popular term for the process of the UK leaving the EU, as a result of the referendum held on 23 June 2016. 

In March 2017, Prime Minister Theresa May gave official notice to the EU of the UK’s intention to leave the EU - referred to as the Article 50 notice. This was the start of a two-year negotiation process to agree the terms under which the UK would leave, and what its future relationship with the EU would be. 

The UK has been a member of the EU since 1973. This means that many structures, arrangements and agreements in place as part of the UK’s membership of the EU become redundant when the UK leaves the EU. New structures, arrangement and agreements need to replace these, which will come under UK law, not EU law.

What is the impact of Brexit on EU Londoners?

Londoners, from whatever background or nationality, are resilient and resourceful, able to adapt to change and welcome new opportunities. But not all change is easy and desired, or even in our control. Whatever your thoughts on Brexit, it will have a significant impact on everyone’s lives. 

This will be true of those who hold passports of the other 27 European Union (EU) countries, as well as citizens of non-EU countries like Norway, Liechtenstein and Iceland (also known as EEA countries) and Switzerland, as well as their family members who settled here under Freedom of Movement rights. Europeans resident in the United Kingdom (UK) under Freedom of Movement will see their residence status change when the UK leaves the EU. The UK Government has agreed with the EU a new status for these residents, to allow them to continue living and working in the country. This new residence status is called Settled Status.

Except in a few cases, if you are an EU, EEA or Swiss citizens resident in the UK you will need to apply for Settled Status through a process managed by the Home Office of the UK Government. This may also apply if are not an EU, EEA, or Swiss citizen, but your family member is.

The Mayor of London has no legislative powers over this process as it is within the remit of the UK's national government, however he wants to ensure that Londoners from the EU, EEA and Switzerland, as well as their families are able to remain part of, and make a full contribution to our community. 

These guidance pages are intended to give you access to clear and impartial information and, if required, guide you to sources for further support and advice. The pages do not provide legal advice and the GLA is unable to do so.

What will be the future relationship between the EU and the UK?

Much of this has yet to be agreed and several scenarios have been discussed widely in the media, including the prospect of leaving the EU with no agreement, or ‘no deal’. This would have a serious impact on organisations, businesses and individuals who rely on EU regulations and arrangements agreed under EU treaties. We have set out in a section below what may be different in case of no-deal.

However, the UK and the EU have stated that they want to avoid that situation arising and have said that whatever happens it is a priority to protect to rights of EU citizens resident in the UK. It is the intention of the UK Government to implement the Settled Status scheme, whatever the outcome of the negotiations.

In their ‘Statement of Intent’ issued on the 21 June 2018, the UK Government states:

“Securing the rights of citizens has always been our priority in negotiations with the European Union (EU). We have delivered on this commitment and reached an agreement with the EU guaranteeing the rights of EU citizens living in the UK and of UK nationals living in the EU. EU citizens living in the UK, along with their family members, will be able to stay and continue their lives, with the same access to work, study, benefits and public services that they enjoy now. Existing close family members living overseas will be able to join them here in future.”

As part of the UK leaving the EU, the UK Government has negotiated a deal which sets out the terms of the UK’s withdrawal. This is called the Withdrawal Agreement and was finalised between the EU and the UK Government in November 2018. Within this agreement are details on how those who have benefited from free movement within the EU will be protected when the UK leaves. However, the Withdrawal Agreement must be approved by the UK Parliament and it was rejected by the House of Commons in several votes between 15 January and 29 March 2019. There were various elements which MPs on both sides of the House did not agree with, including arrangements regarding the border between the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland.

The UK government agreed an extension with the EU to allow time for the Prime Minister to seek agreement with Parliament on a way forward and to try to secure a majority for the agreed withdrawal process in the House of Commons. The current date for the UK leaving the EU is now 31 October 2019. This has no impact on the end date of the transition period or the deadlines for applying to the EU Settlement Scheme, which remain the same.

What does this mean for EU citizens in London?

This means that you will be able to stay in London and you will be able to live your life pretty much as you do now when the UK leaves the EU. Your current residence status will be protected, you will be able to work as now and access services and healthcare. However, you will have to apply for a new residence status, which confirms that you live in the UK and have the right to do so. This is called Settled Status or pre-Settled Status.

What does this mean for EEA citizens from Norway, Liechtenstein and Iceland, or Switzerland?

The rights of citizens from other EEA countries, Norway, Liechtenstein and Iceland, as well as those from Switzerland have now been agreed in separate agreements between the UK government and the governments of these countries.

Citizens of the EEA countries and Switzerland will have the same rights as citizens of the EU27 countries and can apply for Settled Status and pre-Settled Status.

What are Settled Status and pre-Settled Status?

EU regulations for Freedom of Movement will no longer apply to the UK after December 2020, so the UK Government is making it compulsory for EU, EEA, and Swiss citizens, along with their family members, who wish to remain legally in the UK after 31 December 2020, to apply for a new residence status. This is called Settled Status and it grants Indefinite Leave to Remain (ILR) to successful applicants.

The UK Government and the Home Office have stated that they expect the vast majority of applicants will be successful, with only very few exceptions related to convictions for serious crimes. You will have to provide evidence that you have lived in the UK for five consecutive years (continuous residence) to be eligible for Settled Status when you apply. If you can’t, but have entered the UK on or before 31 December 2020, you may be granted pre-Settled Status. Pre-Settled Status can be changed to Settled Status once you have five years of continuous residence in the UK.

There are some exceptions, for instance for people who hold Permanent Residence (PR) or Indefinite Leave to Remain, which is explained in the section 'What if I already have Permanent Residence or Indefinite Leave to Remain or Indefinite Leave to Enter status?' below.

The timelines will be different in a 'no deal' scenario, a separate section details these differences. The remaining guidance uses the timelines proposed in the draft Withdrawal Agreement.

Why would you need to apply for Settled Status or pre-Settled Status?

Settled Status guarantees your right to reside in the UK after 30 June 2021, which is the end of the six month grace period (after the 31 December 2020 deadline for applications to be submitted). If you are an EU citizen and you want to continue to live and work in the UK, to have the same access to benefits, public services and healthcare, the right to study and rent accommodation after 31 December 2020, you will need this new status.

If you are a family member whose status in the UK is reliant on the free movement rights of an EU citizen, or an EEA citizen from Norway, Liechtenstein, or a citizen of Iceland or Switzerland this will also apply to you and you must apply, even if you yourself are not a citizen of any of these countries.

Who needs to apply?

If you and your family members are an EU, EEA, or Swiss citizens  and live in the UK, you will all have to apply. This includes Third Country nationals whose immigration status is dependent on an EU, EEA or Swiss family member.

This does not apply to Irish citizens, or EU, EEA or Swiss citizens who have Indefinite Leave to Remain (ILR) or Indefinite Leave to Enter the UK (ILE), but they may still want to apply.

People with a valid Permanent Residence (PR) document will need to exchange this for Settled Status as their document will become invalid after 31 December 2020. You can find further information under the Eligibility section.

The Home Office has stated that if you hold British nationality in addition to that of an EU, EEA or Swiss country, which is known as Dual Nationality, you will not be able to apply for Settled Status, although certain rights protected under the Withdrawal Agreement may still apply to you. Close family members being able to join you in the UK and family members of so-called Lounes dual nationals can apply under the scheme. Campaigning organisations are still contesting this and we will update this section if there is any change.  

What are your rights as a settled EU citizen after Brexit?

With Settled Status you will broadly keep the same rights as now. You will be able to stay in the UK as long as you like. You will be able to work in the UK, use the NHS, study and have access to public funds such as benefits and pensions, if you are eligible for these. Existing close family members living outside the UK will be able to join you here in the future in the same way they can now, but a future spouse may not be able to join you, for instance. They will have to enter under the UK immigration rules for family members from after 31 December 2020.

Some rights, such as the right to vote and stand as a candidate in local and regional elections are still to be confirmed. Future spouses or family members, with the exception of children born to you or adopted by you, will be subject to future UK immigration law after 31 December 2020.

With Settled Status you can also leave the UK for extended periods of time, but if you are absent for five years or more, you will lose your status and can only return as a new immigrant, subject to the new immigration laws.

Settled Status also allows you to apply for British Citizenship, provided you meet the criteria for this. The route to do this through Permanent Residence is also still open during the Transition Period.

What if there is no deal when the UK leaves the EU?

There is the possibility that the UK will leave the EU without a deal agreed. This has become increasingly likely because the UK Government is unable to have the deal approved by Parliament. The UK Government have set out in a policy paper what will happen to EU citizens if there is no deal agreed between the EU and UK.

The paper states that if there is no deal when the UK leaves the EU, the UK Government will still implement the EU Settled Status scheme and adopt a similar approach to that set out in the Withdrawal Agreement. As EU27 citizens, you and your family will continue to be required to apply under the scheme to remain in the UK.

However, there will be some significant differences. As there is no implementation period, the guarantee would only apply to EU 27 citizens resident in the UK on the date the UK leaves the EU (currently set at 31 October 2019). You will have until 31 December 2020 to apply, so there is no six months grace period. The UK Government would intend to have their new UK immigration system take effect from 1 January 2021.

If you disagree with the decision, you can still request an administrative review, but there will be no right to appeal the decision. Also, in case of crimes committed after 31 October 2019,presuming this is the date the UK leaves the EU, the UK deportation threshold will apply.

Close family members, such as children, spouses, partners and grandparents, where the relationship existed before 31 October 2019, can join you by 29 March 2022. Future spouses and partners, where the relationship was formed after 31 October 2019, can join you by 31 December 2020, after which UK Immigration Rules would apply.

If you have Settled Status, you can still leave the UK for a period of up to five years and keep your right of return.

The arrangement for EFTA (Norway, Iceland and Liechtenstein) and Swiss citizens is different. These are covered by separate agreements with these countries and family reunion rights will be the same in case of no-deal, as in the case of a deal. The right of return for Swiss citizens is four years, not five.

Check your eligibility for Settled Status

The Settled Status application process opened fully on the 30 March 2019 and will stay open until the end of the grace period (six months after 31 December 2020), which is 30 June 2021. It is now free of charge. 

We have provided answers to some of the questions you may have about the application process and an opportunity for you to check your eligibility. 

Check your eligibility for Settled Status.

Find advice and support

This hub provides independent guidance to EU citizens and citizens from Norway, Iceland, Liechtenstein and Switzerland and their families who live in London.

The aim is to help you prepare for your Settled Status application. If you require more information than what is on this hub, you can search our list of support services for access to reliable, accredited and trusted sources of further support and information. You can also sign up for updates on the Home Office information site.

Find advice and support on Brexit and Settled Status.

Read our guidance in your language

You can download and print guidance documents on Brexit and Settled Status from our list of common languages and share them within your community. You can also download and share our Settled Status checklist of helpful documents and information to have ready when completing your Settled Status application.

Read Brexit and Settled Status guidance in your language.

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