Brexit finally happened on 31 January 2020. What is next for Europeans?
On 31 January 2020, the historical moment has happened — the UK officially has left the EU. However, nothing seems to have changed for the Europeans living in the UK and everything is the same as before, at least until 31 December 2020. Or is it?
This is the question that many cautious Europeans are asking themselves, as well as their legal advisors. It is not surprisingly that there was a massive surge in applications under the EU Settlement Scheme on the actual Brexit day, and there was a waiting time of a few minutes even before you could login on the gov.uk website to make the application. Another consequence of increasing awareness about the need to apply is the big delay in getting email confirmations with Certificate of Application and Decision letters. Estimated official processing time which started at 48 hours when the scheme was first introduced, now increased to 5 working days (link). In reality, the processing time takes between 1–2 weeks during regular times and goes up to 3–5 weeks when there is a big urge in applications (e.g. pre-Brexit day panic).
The transition period extended the status quo of the EU law until 31 December 2020. Despite this transitional period, the UK is no longer part of the EU. This means that every European who wishes to remain in the UK after 30 June 2021 has to apply for leave to remain under the EU Settlement Scheme. This is no longer a speculative requirement, but rather a real and very legal reality. The requirement is that all Europeans wishing to benefit from the provisions of the EU Settlement scheme and wanting to stay in the UK after the end of transitional period, must have been living in the UK by 31 December 2020. However, they have until 30 June 2021 to apply.
All those Europeans who are moving to the UK after the transitional period or those who have missed the deadline for application before 30 June 2021, will be subject to the new UK Immigration system that the government intends to put in place by 1 January 2021. There is not enough clear information about what kind of system it will be, apart from Boris Johnson’s cliché statements about “Australian points-based system” or “attracting global talent”. In the past few months, current UK immigration system saw some major changes in scraping old Tier 1 Points Based System routes and rebranding them under Appendix W routes for tech and science focused specialists. Despite being rather optimistic and pompous launch by the government to “enhance the UK’s offer to overseas entrepreneurial talent“, there are a number of issues that the immigration practitioners have experienced with the practicality of those provisions. More recently, the government published a policy describing the changes to the existing rules, as well as the outline of the new system. To many immigration practitioners it looked very much like the current system with small tweaks and relaxations in odd places, but essentially a very strict and high cost immigration system. So, whatever the change is going to be put in place in the new immigration rules from January 2021, undoubtedly, the current offer under the EU Settlement Scheme is a much easier and cost-efficient (read: free) option.
Therefore, all Europeans should seriously consider whether applying now or wait until the last moment before the deadline of June 2021 is best for them. All of those who qualify for settled status (5 years residence with no absences over 6 months), are highly advised to apply as soon as possible. Once granted, the settled status will give the person an indefinite right to stay in the UK and they will only lose it if they leave the UK for over 5 years in one period of time. Moreover, if the ultimate goal is to obtain British citizenship, settled status is the first step towards it. There are also some benefits to consider under the British nationality provisions for any children already born or only planned (or not!) in the future.
For those who can only qualify for pre-settled status (residence under 5 years or big gaps in residence), it is important to consider the following factors:
- When will they reach 5 years residence?
- Is there an intention to stay in the UK for more than 5 years year into the future?
- Will they be absent from the UK for a long period of time before June 2021? For instance, for a secondment/study course abroad/travelling.
- If they are a new resident, when do they intend to move to the UK permanently?
- If they had a recent big gap in UK residence, were they resident in the UK for 5 years before that?
Each situation has to be assessed on its unique circumstances and tailored to suit the person’s future intentions. It is important to consider all the options before applying and to secure the status you are eligible for. However, the main message that should be sent to all Europeans currently living in the UK or considering such move in 2020 — apply before it is too late!
If you would like to speak about your personal circumstances and need assistance with your immigration status in the UK, please contact me, Nelli Shevchenko, solicitor at North Star Law at firstname.lastname@example.org or message me on LinkedIn.