EU nationals, family members and Brexit: you have options!

With Brexit just around the corner, over 3 million European residents and their family members living in the UK face a new immigration system. How should they respond? Harpreet Kaur, Solicitor at Consonant talks through the options.

If you are living in the United Kingdom, regardless of where you come from, you may be wondering what is going on with ‘Brexit’ and what options do you have. Given the level of uncertainty, it’s no wonder that one of our most frequently asked questions from EU nationals is ‘what are my options?’ You may have more options than you think!

Before Brexit: European nationals

It’s well known that prior to Brexit, European nationals (those with citizenship of an EU/EEA member) could enter the United Kingdom without the need for a visa. European nationals could live and work here indefinitely without having to register. If you wanted to register you could apply for a registration certificate after 3 months of living in the United Kingdom. This is a document that confirmed you were exercising your rights under EU law to live and work in the UK.

After 2-5 years (depending on your circumstances) you could apply for permanent residence. After this you could apply for naturalisation and become a full British citizen. To apply you would need to prove you had held permanent residence for at least 12 months in addition to other criteria.

Before Brexit: Non-European family members

Non-European family members (spouses, children, parents, grandparents) were required to apply for a residence permit from outside of the UK to live here. This residence permit was valid for 6 months during which family members would apply for a residence card which would last a further 5 years. At the end of 5 years family members could apply for permanent residence, and after one more year could apply for citizenship.

The current situation: Settled Status

European nationals and their family members need to apply for settled or pre-settled status before by the 30 June 2021. If the UK leaves the EU without a deal the deadline is 31 December 2020.
Settled and pre-settled status allows a person to live and work in the UK, use public services and have access to public funds like welfare. Upon meeting certain requirements, including holding settled status for a period of one year, the person can apply for citizenship. There is currently a £65 fee for the settled status application, but this has been waived so if you apply before 30 March 2019 and the fee is paid it will be refunded.

Not the only option.

You can still make the applications which were ‘historically’ available before Brexit. They are still valid and residence permits will be valid until 31 December 2020. There is no indication of when these will no longer be available. There is a fee of £65 for these applications plus £19.20 to have your biometrics taken.
If you do make one of these applications, it is suggested that you ‘transfer’ to settled status. It is suggested that this process will be a matter of scanning the biometric card which is issued to you with your registration certificate, residence permit or permanent residence card.

The future after Brexit

Who knows? So, would you go with the more familiar route at this moment in time, even if it is going to cost more? The possibilities above are based on the outcome if there is a deal. But if the UK leaves the EU without a deal the ‘proposed’ options are different. If you would like more advice on any of the above, please feel free to contact me or the team! We will assess your case and let you know what the best possible route is for your specific needs.

Please note that the immigration rules are changing frequently and a no deal Brexit may well affect what is decided.

Who are we?

Consonant is making Britain a place where everyone can belong. For over thirty years we have provided expert immigration advice to individuals and businesses so that can achieve their potential. All our the legal fees are put back into our charity. This means that by instructing our lawyers, you are helping vulnerable refugees to obtain the legal assistance they need to live in safety. It also means many more people can access life-changing services like English classes, careers advice and more.

About the author

Harpreet Kaur is a qualified solicitor with five years’ experience in immigration, tenant, family and childcare law. Harpreet leads Consonant’s private client law service, advising individuals and businesses on a wide range of immigration matters under EU and UK law. In addition to English she is fluent in Punjabi and can also conduct business in Urdu and Hindi.

If you would like to know more, or need legal advice please contact 0207 354 9631 or email Harpreet at harpreet.kaur@consonant.org.uk