What has been agreed?
The agreement covers a number of points, but the most important points from an immigration perspective are:
- Any EEA nationals who have been living in the UK, in line with the current law, for at least five years before 29 March 2019 will qualify for “settled status”, this being a new permanent right to stay in the UK.
- EEA nationals who are living in the UK, in line with the current law, on 29 March 2019 but do not qualify for “settled status” will be able to register for a temporary right to stay in the UK. This temporary right will last until they qualify for settled status.
- There will be a two year window for people to register for either “settled status” or the new temporary status.
- People arriving in the UK between 30 March 2019 and the end of December 2020 will be treated as if they arrived before the UK left the EU.
- People arriving after the end of the transitional period will be subject to new rules which have not yet been announced.
Alongside this, the Home Office have provided some details about the process for applying for settled status. Their intention is that the application process will be entirely online and cost no more than a British passport (currently £72.50 but due to increase later this year). The Home Office are also promising to do much of the legwork on applications by checking existing Government data and then providing a decision within two weeks.
Based on our experience of cases, a two week turnaround time seems optimistic. Currently applications can take up to six months, and this does not entail the Home Office carrying out their own investigations. Given all three million EEA nationals living in the UK will be required to apply to the Home Office for some form of status there will be a high number of applications to process and delays are foreseeable.
What should EEA nationals do now?
A common question we are asked is: “Should I apply for Permanent Residence now, or should I wait and apply for settled status?” Our recommendation is that, in most cases, EEA nationals continue to apply for Permanent Residence for the following reasons:
- The requirements for Permanent Residence are known, whereas the requirements for settled status could still be amended. Applying now will provide greater certainty.
- If someone intends to become a British or dual national, they will need to hold Permanent Residence for 12 months before applying. Applying for Permanent Residence now could lead to an earlier grant of citizenship.
- Even if someone doesn’t apply to become a British national, someone who holds Permanent Residence will have an easier process applying for settled status and won’t need to pay a second application fee.
However, there are circumstances where someone may benefit from waiting and applying under the new settled status route, for example:
- Where they rely on a period of studying but did not hold the required medical insurance;
- Where they have gaps in their employment history; and/or
- Where they have been working on zero hour contracts and have a low income.
Even with the recent agreement, there is still uncertainty for EEA nationals considering their status in the UK. Each case will turn on its own individual facts, and we recommend that anyone considering applying for permanent residence or settled status gets in touch to discuss their options.