EU Citizens: Where do they stand?

The UK government has recently published a Draft Agreement on the Withdrawal of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland from the European Union and the European Atomic Energy Community. Even though the agreement has not yet been finalised, any text highlighted in green such as Part Two Citizens’ Rights are agreed at negotiators’ level and will only be subject to technical legal revisions.

The green highlights provide some certainty and confirm that EU citizens can now stay in the UK and continue to access public funds and services after we leave the EU on 29 March 2019. It further deals with what will be required of EU citizens and their family members to ensure that they can continue to lawfully reside in the UK after the transition or implementation period which comes to an end on 30 December 2020.

The following rights have been agreed for EU citizens and their families:

  • Individuals who have been living here continuously and lawfully for five years by 30 December 2020 will be able to apply to stay indefinitely by getting ‘settled status’. This means that they will be able to live in the UK, access public funds and services and become British citizen when they apply for the same.
  • If an individual arrives by 31 December 2020 and has not been living here lawfully for five years when we leave the EU, he or she will be able to apply for temporary permission to stay here until he or she meets the five year threshold.
  • Once they have completed the relevant five years, they may also apply for a settled status. EU citizens will continue to have the same access to healthcare, pensions and other benefits in the UK as they currently do, regardless of whether they have temporary permission or settled status.
  • Any family members living with or joining EU citizens by 31 December 2020 will also be able to apply for a settled status once they have completed five years in the UK.
  • Direct qualifying family members such as (spouses, civil and unmarried partners, dependent children and grandchildren, and dependent parents and grandparents) will be permitted to join the European Citizens even after we leave the EU provided that the relationship existed on 31 December 2020.

Please note:

  • Those arriving between 30 March 2019 to 31 December 2020 will need to register their residence if they wish to stay for longer than three months.
  • Everyone else will need to either register or apply for settled status. Individuals who have permanent residence status will also need to apply for settled status. This is because permanent residence statuses are/were given under European Law. They will therefore need to be updated and secured under the British laws.
  • The rights outlined above do not yet apply to citizens of Norway, Iceland, Liechtenstein and Switzerland who are resident in the UK. Their rights are in discussion and yet to be agreed.
  • The rights outlined will not affect Irish citizens as their rights are rooted in British law dating back to 1949. Therefore they will not need to register or apply for settled status.

More guidance will be published towards the end of 2018 and the scheme will remain open for applications until 30 June 2021. Your rights will be protected up until 30 June 2021; hence please ensure your applications for temporary permission or settled permission are made in good time.

If  have any further questions or would like assistance with your application for registration, temporary permission or settled status, please contact Hillay Janebdar, an associate solicitor and head of our immigration team at

Key dates to diarise:

29 March 2019: UK leaves the EU
30 December 2020: Implementation period ends
1 July 2021: Mandatory Immigration Controls come into force

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