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Detailed guide: Status of EU citizens in the UK: what you need to know

Updated: New information about application processes added.

This page will be updated with the latest information about the status of European Union (EU) citizens (see note 1), and their families, in the UK as the EU negotiations progress.

Since the result of the referendum, the UK government has made clear that its first priority in negotiations with the EU is to secure the status of EU citizens living in the UK, and UK nationals living in the EU. No EU citizen currently in the UK lawfully will have to leave at the point that we leave the EU.

On 26 June we published a policy paper (available in English) which sets out our offer to EU citizens and their families in the UK. We are seeking to provide EU citizens with certainty about their future as soon as possible and we are very close to reaching an agreement with the EU.

There is no need for EU citizens living in the UK to do anything now, including applying for a permanent residence document. There will be no change to the status of EU citizens living in the UK while the UK remains in the EU. If you would like to find out the latest information you can sign up for email updates.

Note 1: We also expect that our offer will be extended to resident nationals of Norway, Iceland, Lichtenstein and Switzerland. As the rights of British and Irish citizens in each other’s countries are rooted in the Ireland Act 1949, Irish nationals won’t need to apply for the new status.

More information is available on what UK nationals travelling and living in Europe need to know.

Our offer for EU citizens in the UK

The UK government’s offer for EU citizens is:

  • People who have been continuously living here for 5 years will be able to apply to stay indefinitely by getting ‘settled status’. That means these citizens will be free to live here, have access to public funds and services and go on to apply for British citizenship.
  • People who arrived before the cut-off date, but won’t have been here for 5 years when we leave the EU, will be able to apply to stay until they have reached the 5 year threshold. They can then also apply for settled status.
  • Family dependants who are living with, or join, EU citizens in the UK before the UK’s exit will also be able to apply for settled status after 5 years in the UK.

The cut-off date will be agreed during the negotiations but we are clear that it shouldn’t be earlier than 29 March 2017 (the date Article 50 was triggered) or later than the date the UK leaves the EU.

We intend that EU citizens with settled status and temporary permission to stay will continue to have the same access as they currently do to healthcare, education, benefits and pensions.

More information is available in the policy paper about the UK’s offer to EU citizens

Case studies giving examples of how individual EU citizens’ residence status in the UK will be affected by the UK’s exit from the EU are available.

Assessment of settled status applications

We have agreed with the EU that the conditions for EU citizens and their family members to get settled status in the UK will be the same as those set out in the existing Free Movement Directive. In most cases this means you will need 5 years of continuous and lawful residence in the UK as a worker, self-employed person, student, self-sufficient person, or family member of an EU citizen.

We will not check that you hold comprehensive sickness insurance regardless of what activity you have been undertaking in the UK (see note 2). You will not have to account for every trip that you have taken in and out of the UK.

EU citizens and their family members who are lawfully resident in the UK at the relevant time and make a valid application will be granted status by the UK authorities, unless one of the grounds for refusal permitted by the withdrawal agreement applies. Subject to final agreement with the EU, we expect that these grounds will be that the applicant was not resident before the specified date or because they did not meet the conditions as prescribed in the withdrawal agreement, or because they are refused on criminality or security grounds. The withdrawal agreement will become a part of UK law and the Home Office will have no discretion to refuse an application for any other reason.

Note 2: In some circumstances, comprehensive sickness insurance is still required for the purposes of accessing the healthcare system in the UK, but will no longer be considered as a requirement for acquiring settled status.

Applying for settled status

We will be asking EU citizens and family members to make an application to the Home Office to get your new settled status.

We will make the process as streamlined, quick and user-friendly as possible. We plan to develop a system which draws on existing government data, for example, employment records held by HMRC, which will show if you have a work history in the UK. This will significantly reduce the amount of evidence that you will need to provide.

The Home Office will work with you to ensure that your application is not turned down because it has simple errors in or is incomplete. If you have made a mistake in your application, a caseworker will contact you to help you fix the error, and advise you if you need to provide additional evidence, before a decision on your application is made.

We will ask you to provide an identity document and recent photograph to confirm your identity. EU citizens will not be asked to give their fingerprints. The fee for applying for settled status will be no more than the cost of applying for a British passport in the UK.

Getting this status will prove (for example, to employers or public service providers) that you have permission to continue living and working in the UK in future.

Our intention is that you will be able to apply for this status before the UK leaves the EU, and that the scheme will remain open for applications for a considerable period, likely to be 2 years, after the UK leaves the EU, so there will be adequate time for you to apply. If there are good reasons why you missed the deadline for application these will be taken into account when deciding whether to allow an out-of-time application. If you submit an application but haven’t received a decision before the deadline, you can continue to live in the UK until the decision is made.

We expect the new online application system to go live in 2018.

More information on our proposed procedures for processing settled status applications is available (in English).

Permanent residence status under EU law

The settled status application process for EU citizens will be completely different from the current one for documents confirming EU permanent residence status. We are designing a new system from scratch, with new processes, technology, rules and support for applicants.

Permanent residence documents confirm that an individual has rights under European law. In the future, EU law will no longer apply and the migration and status of EU nationals will be subject to UK law.

We recognise the concerns of those who have already obtained a permanent residence certificate. So, if you have already gone through the process and received a permanent residence document, there will be a simple process to exchange this for settled status. We will run identity and security checks, and confirm that you are still living in the UK. Any previous assessment of residence we have done will not be repeated and you will be charged a reduced fee.

For those who have not got these documents, under EU law you don’t need a document to confirm your residence status in the UK whilst the UK remains a member of the EU. If you’re planning to apply for an EU permanent residence document just to confirm your status, you can sign up for email alerts. These email updates will let you know about developments that might affect you, including the steps that you will need to take to confirm your status through our streamlined new system once it is up and running.

There are a small number of exceptions to this if you want to: apply for British citizenship, sponsor your partner’s visa application under the Immigration Rules, or to have a right to enter or live in the UK if you’re an extended family member of an EU citizen.

EU citizen rights flowchart

Indefinite leave to remain

Indefinite leave to remain status is not affected by the UK’s exit from the EU. So, providing EU citizens can show evidence of having previously been granted this status, they will not need to make any further applications.

However, should these citizens wish to obtain updated documentation confirming their status under the withdrawal agreement, they can do so through the settled status scheme or by applying for a biometric residence permit. Biometric residence permits are available for EU and non-EU nationals who wish to receive updated documentation confirming they have indefinite leave to remain.

EU citizens who arrive in the UK after the cut-off date

Regardless of when the agreed cut-off date is, if you arrive before the date the UK leaves the EU and you’re living here lawfully, you won’t have to leave the UK when we leave the EU. The proposed implementation period (announced by the Prime Minister in her Florence speech in September) will mean EU citizens can live, work and study in the UK as they can now for a strictly time-limited period after we leave the EU. How long this period lasts is subject to negotiations, however it is likely to last around 2 years.

Details of the rules around leave to remain for EU citizens who arrive after the cut-off date and during the implementation period are yet to be agreed. We will publish more details as soon as possible, to give EU citizens and businesses enough time to plan and prepare.

UK employers and EU citizen employees

If you’re an EU citizen working in the UK or a UK business that employs an EU citizen, you don’t need to do anything now. There will be no change to the rights and status of EU citizens living in the UK before we leave the EU.

After we leave and following an implementation period of around 2 years, EU citizens may need to apply for a document to prove they have permission to legally work in the UK. There will be plenty of time for them to do this, and we will work closely with businesses and others to look at how they will be affected by these changes.

We are currently looking at what the future immigration system will look like. On 27 July, the government commissioned the independent Migration Advisory Committee (MAC) to gather evidence on patterns of EU migration and the role of migration in the wider economy, ahead of our exit from the EU. We will ensure businesses and communities are given the opportunity to contribute their views on this.