The EU Settlement Scheme is the main pathway through which EU, EAA, and Swiss citizens can stay in the UK without applying for a visa. Read on for general information about UK settlement visas, and for specific information on the EU Settlement Scheme processing time. This blog will also examine the deadline and cost of the EU Settlement Scheme, and reveal other information about Brexit and EU citizens in the context of UK immigration.
When it comes to Brexit and EU citizens in the United Kingdom today, there is ongoing confusion surrounding the issue of visas and immigration for non-UK citizens. The United Kingdom officially left the European Union on January 31st, 2021. No longer subject to the EU’s laws and customs regarding immigration post-Brexit, the UK has a new immigration system in place, with a specific set of rules for non-UK citizens seeking to enter, live, and remain in the U.K. As a general rule, the new point-based immigration system does not distinguish between citizens of the European Union (EU), European Economic Area (EAA), and Swiss nationals (all of whom previously enjoyed visa-free access to the UK for touristic, work, and study purposes) and third-country nationals from outside the bloc, who continue to lack visa-free access to the EU/Schengen area. Under the new system, therefore EU, EAA, and Swiss citizens seeking to enter the UK for longer than six months for work, study, family reunification, or other non-touristic purposes must apply for a visa to do so.
As noted, individuals seeking to immigrate to the UK from the EU, EAA, and Switzerland post-Brexit will new residency requirements. However, unlike most other third-party nationals, eligible citizens of the above countries who have been living uninterrupted in the UK have the privilege of remaining in the country via the EU Settlement Scheme, which was established in order to help Swiss, EAA, and EU citizens who are long-term residents of Britain remain in the country post-Brexit.
What is the EU Settlement Scheme?
- Also known as the UK settlement visa, the EU Settlement Scheme is a vehicle through which eligible applicants can maintain residency in the UK, and ultimately achieve UK citizenship.
- Those eligible for the EU Settlement Scheme are EU, EEA or Swiss citizens who have been living in the UK and wish to keep residing there post June 30th, 2021. Relatives of the above eligible applicants and other categories of persons may also pursue settlement under the scheme.
- Successful applicants for the EU Settlement Scheme will receive Settled Status or Pre-Settled Status, based on the number of years they have resided in the UK.
- People who achieve either category of status will be allowed to enter and exit the country freely (i.e. without a visa). They can also study and be employed throughout England, Scotland, Northern Ireland, and Wales, receive social welfare payments, and enjoy UK national healthcare.
Settled vs. Pre-Settled Status
- Settled Status:
- Is awarded to those who have resided in the country for five years relatively uninterrupted (this translates into having lived in the UK for a minimum of half a year, every year, for the past half-decade).
- Applicants who haven’t quite lived continuously in the UK due to their performance of official military services, or because they had medical issues or other valid reasons can potentially be excused from this requirement.
- Applicants who receive Settled Status have the right to remain in the UK indefinitely and even apply for UK citizenship.
- Applicants with Settled Status will be divested of their status if they spend over five years outside of the country.
- Children who are born from parents who have achieved Settled Status in the country will naturally receive British nationality.
- Pre-Settled Status:
- People who haven’t resided in the country for five years relatively uninterrupted, but who were in the UK prior to December 31st, 2020, will likely be granted Pre-Settled Status.
- Applicants with Pre-Settled Status will be divested of their status if they spend over two years outside of the country.
- Applicants who have Pre-Settled Status may become eligible for Settled Status after they have achieved a minimum of five years of uninterrupted residency in the UK.
- Children who are born from parents who have achieved Pre-Settled Status in the country will likely receive Pre-Settled Status as well, however they can exclusively become eligible for British nationality only if the other parent is a UK citizen.
Who can apply for the EU Settlement Scheme?
- Citizens of the EU, Switzerland, Northern Ireland, and the EAA (Iceland, Norway and Liechtenstein), who were living in the UK on or before December 31st, 2020, who wish to remain living in the UK for the long-term.
- If you are a family member of anyone who fits into the above categories, and you wish to join that person in the UK.
- Other categories of people may also be applicable, including those who are a relative of people with EU, EEA or Swiss citizenship, or those who are the main caregiver of EU, EEA or Swiss citizens.
- People who have left the country prior to December 31st, 2020, but who previously lived in the UK can also pursue eligibility for Pre-Settled Status.
Who should not apply for the EU Settlement Scheme?
- Please note that anyone who was granted indefinite leave to enter or remain in the country (known as ILR) should not worry his or her status relative to the EU Settlement Scheme. This category of persons likely includes citizens of the EU, EEA or Switzerland who have long-term residency in the UK (i.e. prior to the country’s EU ascension). Because most of these people possess indefinite leave to remain, they likely will not need to apply for Settlement Status.
- Irish citizens, frontier workers, NATO members, foreign workers should also not worry about applying.
How to apply for the EU Settlement Scheme?
- Applicants for the EU Settlement Scheme can apply online through this link.
- In order to apply, applicants will need to supply proof of the following:
- In most cases, applicants will need to establish their proof of identity by supplying their passport, email, and phone number.
- Applicants must also submit proof of uninterrupted residency for a minimum of two years (for pre-settled) and 5 years for settled). Usually this is accomplished by submitting a National Insurance Number, although occasionally other documentary proof is needed.
- Applicants who are not themselves citizens of Switzerland, the EU, or the EAA, but who are applying by extension of a relative who is, must prove their relationship to said relative. Click here for information on how to establish this proof.
- Applicants who have criminal records must declare them or risk being denied Settled or Pre-Settled Status when otherwise eligible. Please note that having committed crimes in the past does not automatically mean your application will be rejected. In all cases whatsoever, it is better to be honest about past infractions than to lie on your official application.
- Applicants submitting proof of identity, residency, or any other required documents may do so by either scanning all relevant materials and uploading them via the EU Exit: ID Document Check’ application, or mailing them through the post.
Deadline and Cost of the EU Settlement Scheme
- The deadline for applying for the EU Settlement Scheme is June 31st, 2021.
- The cost of the EU Settlement Scheme is free.
EU Settlement Scheme Processing Time
- Applicants for the EU Settlement scheme should receive their results in five days. However, depending on the nature of your application, it could take 31 days.
- After applying, you will receive an electronic message (via email) indicating whether your application has been accepted, and what kind of status you have received.
- Please note that while they are often called “UK settlement visas,” Settlement Status is not technically a visa. Unlike a visa, your settlement is not typically represented in a physical form, such as a card. Instead, you can access your status online, via this link.
- After one year, applicants who received Settled Status who are interested in pursuing formal UK citizenship may apply to do so.
- Please note, if your EU settlement application is rejected, you have the right to either re-apply or appeal, so long as you do so prior to June 30th, 2021.