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Explainer: What will happen to EU citizens living in the UK after 31 October?

Concerns have been raised about the impact a no-deal Brexit could have on the status of European citizens living in Britain.

File photo
File photo
Image: Shutterstock/Fasttailwind

THE HOME OFFICE has denied claims that the deadline for EU citizens who live in the UK to apply to remain there post-Brexit has changed.

Britain is due to leave the European Union on 31 October, with or without a deal.

Concerns have been raised in recent days about the impact a no-deal scenario could have on the future status of European citizens living in the UK. 

Through the EU Settlement Scheme, EU, EEA (EU plus Iceland, Liechtenstein and Norway) and Swiss citizens can apply to remain in the UK after Brexit. People who were born in the UK but are not a British citizen can also apply.

Irish citizens, individuals with ‘indefinite leave to remain’ status, and people who are exempt from immigration control such as foreign diplomats, do not need to apply.

More than one million of the 3.5 million EU citizens living in the UK have applied to the scheme to date and been granted settled or pre-settled status. This means their rights are secured under UK law. 

The deadline to apply is 30 June 2021, or 31 December 2020 if the UK leaves the EU without a deal, the British government has said. 

The scheme made headlines during the week after a government ad was banned from the airwaves because the UK’s Advertising Standards Authority ruled that it was “misleading”.

The radio ad stated in April that in order to apply to the scheme people just required a passport or an ID card.

As part of the application process, people need to prove their identity and address, show how long they have lived in the UK, and declare any criminal convictions.

‘Legal limbo’ 

Meanwhile, some people seeking information about the scheme say they have been given conflicting information about deadlines and their right-to-work post-Brexit. 

A spokesperson for the Home Office told TheJournal.ie the above deadlines remain in effect.

Nora Mulready, a former Change UK MEP candidate for London, said she was recently told by the EU Settlement Scheme office that the rights of EU citizens who had not applied to the scheme before 31 October “could not be guaranteed” from 1 November onwards.

Home Secretary Priti Patel earlier this month said that freedom of movement between the UK and the EU will end overnight on 31 October, despite previous plans for a transition period, in the event of a no-deal scenario.

Mulready said she was told all EU citizens should aim to apply to the scheme by 31 October as, if freedom of movement is ended, “they’ll find themselves in difficulty”.

Mulready said she was also told that if an EU citizen is out of the country if and when a no-deal scenario happens, “it will not be easy for them to come back into Britain”.

When asked about these claims, a Home Office spokesperson said “some inaccurate reporting has suggested that, once freedom of movement ends after Brexit, EU citizens resident in the UK will be left in ‘legal limbo’”.

“EU citizens and their families are welcome to stay and there are no changes to the deadline to apply to the EU Settlement Scheme,” a statement noted.

The spokesperson said an EU citizen who already lives in the UK but is abroad if and when free movement ends, “would still be eligible for the EU Settlement Scheme” (as would their family).

No one eligible for status will be barred from re-entering the UK when free movement ends.

They encouraged EU citizens and their families to apply to the scheme as soon as possible, but added: “For those who haven’t applied when free movement ends, they will still have the same entitlements to work, benefits and services and will be able to prove these in the same way as they do now.”

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Employment rights 

In terms of employment rights, the spokesperson said: 

The law is absolutely clear that employers must not discriminate on the grounds of nationality both as a current and a prospective employer. 

“Employers should continue to conduct right-to-work checks in the same way as they do now in compliance with the current statutory codes of practice,” they added, referencing the December 2020 deadline to apply to the scheme. 

The spokesperson said arrangements for EU citizens and their families who arrive in the UK after free movement ends will be outlined by the Home Office soon.

Of the one million-plus people who have been granted status through the resettlement scheme by 31 July, two-thirds received settled status, generally as they had been resident in the UK for five years or more, with one-third being granted pre-settled status.

Up to the end of last month, 958,000 applications had been received from England, 51,600 from Scotland, 15,600 from Wales and 12,900 from Northern Ireland.

Pre-settled status is granted to people who confirm that they been in the country for less than five years. This aligns with EU law whereby someone receives permanent residence status after five years.

Once EU citizens and their families have five years’ residence in Britain, they can apply for settled status, which grants them leave on an indefinite basis.

“Nobody has been granted pre-settled status without first being offered, and declining, the opportunity to submit evidence that they qualify for settled status,” the Home Office spokesperson said. 

They added that, up to at least the end of June, no one who applied for status had been refused.

About the author:

Órla Ryan

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