Brexit - EU Settlement Scheme

Last modified: 13 February 2019

What is the settlement scheme and why is it necessary? 

The UK is due to leave the European Union at 11pm UK time (midnight continental Europe time) on 29 March 2019.  The UK is still a member of the European Union (EU) until this time. The UK and the EU have been negotiating an agreement to take effect as soon as the UK leaves the EU. This is known as the ‘Withdrawal Agreement’, and as yet there has been no final agreement reached between the UK and the EU. 

If an agreement between the UK and the EU is reached before 29 March 2019, the UK will enter into a ‘transition’ or ‘implementation’ period from 30 March 2019 until 31 December 2020 (this period might be extended).

During this time EU citizens and their eligible family members can still enter the UK on the same basis as in place currently (without requiring immigration permission). However, EU citizens and their eligible family members living in the UK before the end of the transition period (as well as eligible family members of British citizens who have exercised a right to reside in another EU country) will be able to apply for immigration permission under the ‘settlement scheme’ (currently in a pilot phase and expected to be fully in place on 30 March 2019). You will need to apply under the scheme (or under another category of the Immigration Rules) if you intend to remain in the UK after the end of any transition period.

If the agreement between the EU and UK is reached, citizens of Iceland, Norway Switzerland and Lichtenstein and their eligible family members will also be able to participate in the scheme.

The settlement scheme is designed to offer EU citizens and their eligible family members living in the UK the opportunity to protect their residence in the UK after the UK leaves the EU. 

The settlement scheme is not only for those who intend to settle in the UK after studying. It is immigration permission, which can lead to settlement, but does not have to be used to gain settlement. With permission under the scheme there will be no restrictions on study (where you study or what you study). 

Do I have to apply under the settlement scheme?

Last modified: 13 February 2019

If an agreement between the UK and EU is reached, EU citizens, non-EU EEA citizens and the eligible family members of both who are in the UK beyond 31 December 2020 will need to have immigration permission (either through the settlement scheme or through another category of the Immigration Rules as they will be from January 2021). Please note that those who enter the UK before 31 December 2020 will have until 30 June 2021 to apply under the scheme.

For the same reason, those who have a documented right of permanent residence under EU law will need to apply under the scheme before the end of the transition period (or under another category of the Immigration Rules), as the right of permanent residence is an EU right which will no longer be recognised once the UK has left the EU (and after the implementation period if there is one). Those with a document confirming permanent residence can apply for free under the scheme, and will (if successful) be granted 'settled status'. 

Certain eligible family members who have not entered the UK by 31 December 2020 may still be able to apply under the settlement scheme after the deadline, if the relationship with the EU citizen was formed by this date. It will also be open to a child later born to someone granted permission under the scheme. 

If no agreement is reached EU, non-EU EEA and Swiss citizens and all eligible family members will not be able to come to the UK on the same basis as now once free movement has ended. However, EU citizens and their eligible family members who are resident in the UK before 11pm on 29 March 2019 (including those who are temporarily absent) will be able to apply under the settlement scheme to obtain 'settled' or 'pre-settled' status. However, see settlement scheme – if no agreement is reached.

The settlement scheme has been designed to be very straightforward and user-friendly and has been tested under three pilots (with modifications made to the application throughout these pilots). 

In order to apply under the settlement scheme you do not have to be ‘exercising a right to reside’. This means if you are an EU citizen you will not have to be in the UK as a ‘worker’, ‘student’ or ‘self-sufficient person’ etc. Therefore, there is no requirement under the scheme to provide evidence that you have comprehensive sickness insurance. 

The pilot

Last modified: 08 February 2019

There have been three phases of a pilot of the scheme. The third (current) phase of the pilot started on 21 January 2019. The scheme is expected to be fully rolled out on 30 March 2019.

The current phase of the pilot is open to 

  • EU citizens who have valid passports with a digital chip; and 
  • the eligible family members of EU citizens who have been issued with UK biometric residence card or a biometric residence permit

The application currently costs £65 (where applicant is 16 or older). The application will be free for those who have a document confirming the ‘right of permanent residence’ under EU law, and in a few other circumstances. The £65 fee will eventually be refunded, as the UK government announced in January 2019 that there would be no charge for the scheme when it is fully rolled out. Therefore the scheme will be free for those who apply from 30 March 2019.

Read our blogs about the application process by two people who applied under the two previous pilots. 

If an agreement is reached

Last modified: 11 February 2019

The following groups can apply under the settlement scheme (expected to be fully in place on 30 March 2019). 

who are resident in the UK or arrive by 31 December 2020. The deadline to apply under the settlement scheme is 30 June 2021.

Eligible family members who are not in the UK by 31 December 2020 may still be eligible to apply under the scheme if  the relationship with the EU/EEA citizen was formed before this date.

Once you have ‘settled status’ any children you have who are under 21 can also apply for ‘settled status’ (without needing to be in the UK for five years themselves).

Those who arrive in the UK from 1 January 2021 will be expected to apply under a category of the Immigration Rules in place at that time - details of which have not yet been published.

If you have lived in the UK for five years (with permitted gaps of up to six months in any 12 month period, and/or one instance of up to 12 months absence for a specified reason, which includes study) you will be able to apply for ‘settled status’ under the scheme. This is also referred to as ‘indefinite leave to remain’. There are (limited) circumstances in which someone can obtain ‘settled status’ with less than five years’ residence

If you have not been in the UK for five years, you can apply for ‘pre-settled status’ (a grant of five years’ permission), and after five years of living in the UK you can apply for settled status (the five years does not have to start from the point of the grant of pre-settled status - it will include all the time you have resided in the UK).You will need to do this if you intend to stay in the UK after the five year permission ends (unless you apply under another category of the immigration Rules).

There is no minimum time you need to have spent in the UK in order to apply for pre-settled status – you only need to show evidence that you currently live in the UK. The guidance for the pilot phase contains a helpful list at Annex A of evidence that the Home Office currently accept, although other evidence can be used.

Once you have ‘pre-settled’ or ‘settled’ status, there will be no restrictions on study (where you study or what you study). 

‘Settled status’ will be lost after an absence of five years from the UK (this is still subject to approval from Parliament). 

'Pre-settled' status can be lost after an absence of more than two years from the UK.

If status is lost and you are no longer eligible to apply under the settlement scheme, you will only be able to apply under any other category of the immigration Rules in place at the time you wish to come to the UK.

If no agreement is reached

Last modified: 11 February 2019

The UK government has given assurances and published a policy paper which states that the scheme will still operate as it will if an agreement is reached, but:

  • will only be open to EU citizens and their eligible family members who are resident in the UK before 11 pm on 29 March 2019, unless:
  • you are temporarily absent from the UK (within the Rules of the scheme on permitted absences). In this case you will still be able to enter the UK from 30 March 2019 and apply under the settlement scheme.  
  • you are an eligible family member and the relationship with the EU citizen (who is eligible to apply under the settlement scheme) was formed before the 29 March 2019. In this case the deadline for the eligible family member to apply is 29 March 2022
  • you are child born to an EU citizen who is eligible to apply under the settlement scheme
  • the deadline to apply will be 30 December 2020

The UK government has reached separate agreements with the EFTA EEA countries and Switzerland protecting non-EU EEA citizens and their eligible family members and Swiss citizens and their family members who are resident in the UK by 29 March 2019. They will be eligible to apply under the settlement scheme, but the deadlines within which to apply vary according to the two agreements.

In addition, the government has published guidance for EU, non-EU EEA and Swiss citizens who come to the UK from 30 March 2019. This guidance includes details of the European Temporary leave to remain. Please see our news item on this. Further to this the government published guidance specifically for Higher Education Institutions in the event of no agreement being reached

The application process

Last modified: 08 February 2019

Where to apply for the settlement scheme

How to apply under the settlement scheme

What you need to apply

After you apply


Top