The United Kingdom is organizing itself to allow European citizens, and those who, like them, previously had freedom of movement rights, to remain in the country without fear of discrimination. The Settlement Scheme promises ease and swiftness.

The Settlement Scheme is a program through which citizens of the European Union and the European Economic Area (which includes Swiss, Icelandic, Norwegian and Liechtenstein residents) can apply to continue living in the United Kingdom after June 30th, 2021, the date that currently represents the “point of no return” (i.e. the definitive exit of Great Britain from the European Union).

It represents a viable opportunity to avoid illegally staying in the country after Brexit finalizes, and according to the current government, is also an efficient way to survey people living in the UK and a mode in which to carry-out targeted checks on immigrants.

It is believed that there are approximately three million European citizens in the UK who are eligible to apply.

Citizens from a European Union country who wish to continue living in the UK will have to apply, even if they are married to British citizens. This will also apply to minors, who must apply with a parent or legal guardian.

The acceptance of the application is determined by two prerequisites: that the status of “permanent residency” (settled status) is recognized or that one is considered a “temporary resident” (pre-settled status). This difference depends on the length of stay in Great Britain in the period prior to the presentation of the application.

Permanent Residents

The status of permanent resident is (or will be) granted:

  • To those settled in the UK while it was still part of the European Union.
  • To those who have lived in the United Kingdom, in the Channel Islands or on the Isle of Man for five continuous years, also known as an “uninterrupted residence period”.

A residency period of at least 6 out of 12 months is mandatory. If residency is interrupted, or if the applicant has been away longer than the allowed 6 months for an important reason, this is considered uninterrupted. The following are some further guidelines:

  • In the event of a pregnancy, a serious illness, study, attendance of a professional training course or work assignment abroad, 12 months is the amount of time permitted.
  • Conscription to military service, whatever its duration, is permitted.
  • Work performed by a state employee abroad, for a period of time that is pre-determined and approved. This also applies to family members of state employees.
  • Employment abroad in the armed forces, for a period of time that is pre-determined and approved. This also applies to family members of state employees.

Temporary resident

In the absence of the requirement for an uninterrupted stay of at least five years, one may be eligible to receive temporary residency status.

In this case it will be enough to have established one’s residence in Great Britain before Great Britain leaves the European Union.

After five years, the temporary resident has the ability to make a request to convert their status to permanent.

If you are recognized as a temporary resident, you can stay in the UK for an additional period of 5 years and, consequently:

  • Work
  • Use the National Health Service (NHS)
  • Enroll in courses of study or continue studies in which one is already enrolled
  • Access pensions and subsidies
  • Travel to and from the United Kingdom

How and when to apply for the Settlement Scheme

Those who wish can already apply for the Settlement Scheme, considering that there will be time to do so until the 31st of December 2020.

In the event of a negative outcome with Brexit, a request, even if rejected, could be re-evaluated in the future upon request. It is also possible to reapply. The application process does not incur any expenses.

Who doesn't need the Settlement Scheme

Some people may remain in the UK without concerns of deadlines or missed agreements. These are:

  • Those who have entry permits and permanent residency in the United Kingdom
  • Those who have permanent residency in the United Kingdom
  • British or Irish citizens, even if they have dual citizenship
  • Persons born in the United Kingdom who have at least one parent with an established status
  • EU, EEA or Swiss citizens who moved to the UK before they joined the EU
  • Frontier workers, i.e. those who work for the United Kingdom but do not live in the UK
  • Subjects exempt from immigration controls

The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.