From 30 March 2019, new immigration rules, the EU Settlement Scheme, will apply to EU nationals and their family members who live in the UK, whether or not the UK strikes a deal with the EU. Please note that the terms of the Scheme are still being revised.

In most cases, the process for EU citizens and their non EU family members will be light touch and entirely digital and require them to download an app, and then scan their passport, National ID card or UK Biometric Residence Card, face and photograph via a smart phone, input their National Insurance number and answer questions on criminality.

The Scheme is already open for applications on a limited basis but Icelandic, Liechtenstein, Norwegian, and Swiss nationals, non EU family members who don't hold a UK biometric EU Residence Card, those with no access to an Android device or who are unable to attend an ID Document Scanning Location must wait until 30 March 2019 when the Scheme should be fully open and Iphone compatible.

Under the Scheme, EU nationals and their family members who have been continuously resident for 5 years in the UK should be eligible to apply for Settled Status, allowing them to stay indefinitely in the UK. Those who have been resident for less than 5 years should be eligible to apply for Pre-Settled Status, allowing them to stay in the UK until they have reached the 5 year threshold, at which point they may be eligible for Settled Status.

If a deal is reached, EU nationals and their family members have until 30 June 2021 to apply. Family members of UK-resident-EU nationals can join them in the UK after Brexit, or if there is no deal, until 29 March 2022, providing the relationship existed at 31 December 2020.

The Scheme's automatic checks with HMRC and DWP data make it less onerous for most applicants to prove residence. Also, applicants who have been studying or self-sufficient in the UK should no longer have to prove that they held comprehensive sickness insurance, unlike the current rules. Settled status is lost after a continuous absence from the UK of 5 years or more from the UK, unlike the current status of Permanent Residence, which is lost after a continuous absence of 2 years or more.

However, there are disadvantages to the Scheme, not least because its terms are still being revised. In addition, because applicants cannot chose which 5-year residency period they wish to rely on, this may delay their subsequent eligibility to naturalise as British citizens until they have held Settled Status for 12 months (for those applying on the 5-year route to naturalisation). Additionally, there may be tax implications resulting from the automated data exchange with HMRC and DWP, or from the Home Office's choice of 5-year period of residency.

Please click here to view our table outlining the above.

The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.