At 11pm on 31 December 2020, the UK will leave the European Union. What does this mean for EEA Citizens (meaning European Union citizens in the UK plus those from Norway, Iceland, Liechtenstein and Switzerland) and their families?
31 December 2020 will not bring change for EEA citizens and their family members already living in the UK. For some time, EEA citizens have been able to apply to the EU Settlement Scheme to obtain ‘Pre-Settled’ or ‘Settled Status’, otherwise known as ‘limited leave to remain’ and ‘indefinite leave to remain’. This gives them legal immigration status in the UK now and in the future. EEA Citizens must apply for Pre-Settled or Settled Status to live here legally but they have until 30 June 2021 to do so.
Failure to apply to the Settlement Scheme by 30 June 2021 will result in the EEA citizen becoming unlawfully resident in the UK.
There are some exceptions for those who have a good reason not to apply before 30 June next year – but our advice is to apply to the EU Settlement Scheme as soon as possible.
Up until 31 December 2020, EEA family members can simply travel to the UK and apply to the EU Settlement Scheme in their own right.
That changes after 31 December.
From 1 January 2021, EEA citizen family members who do not live in the UK or who have been away from the UK for extended periods (over 6 months), must be ‘sponsored’ by their close EEA family member in the UK. This can be done through the EU Settlement Scheme (an application for a EUSS Family Permit) as long as the family relationship existed before 31 December 2020. Or if they are the child of the EEA citizen in the UK born or adopted in the future.
Family members are spouses, children, grandchildren and dependent parents. The same applies to non-EEA family members of EEA citizens already in the UK. It is easier to do this if the sponsoring EEA citizen already in the UK has obtained Pre-Settled or Settled Status. After 30 June 2021 this will be essential.
So these applications will be made outside the UK. EEA citizens have an advantage over non-EEA citizens because they will be able to use the Settlement Scheme app to apply from overseas. Non-EEA family members will have to apply for an EUSS Family Permit to enter the UK and then apply for Pre-Settled Status once they have arrived.
Until 30 June 2021, an EEA citizen in the UK can bring their ‘dependent’ parents or grandparents to join them in the UK. At present, dependency is ‘assumed’ which means that, in theory, there is no need to produce any evidence that the parents and grandparents are in fact dependent on the EEA citizen in the UK. From 1 July 2021, parents and grandparents must provide evidence of their dependency on their sponsor. Dependent means that the parents cannot meet their essential living needs without the financial support of the sponsor.
EEA citizens, who are not already resident in the UK before 31 December 2020 and who are entering the UK for longer than a short trip will have to apply under the same rules as non-EEA citizens from 1 January 2021.
The Home Office can refuse applications from EEA citizens if the character of the person is in doubt – for example, if they have used false documents to make an application, if they have entered a ‘sham’ marriage or if the government decides it is ‘not conducive’ to the public good that the person is allowed to stay in the UK.
All these changes are not easy to navigate and unfortunately, some EEA citizens and their families will face increasing complexity in relation to their immigration status.
To find out more about the legal status of European Union citizens in the UK following Brexit, contact us.