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What to do if you’re an EU national in the UK

AS WE go live online, detail is emerging on the EU Settlement Scheme, under which our many members who are EU nationals living in the UK will have to register to get permanent residence.

Pro-EU march

Customers of the Patisserie Valerie off Piccadilly watch as a march in favour of a second EU referendum goes past in June 2018

It's still hard to offer any up-to-date advice to our many members who are UK nationals in the EU as Brexit looms, just three months away. For our update on UK nationals in the (rest of the) EU, see here.

The EU Settlement Scheme, under which EU nationals in the UK will have to apply for permanent residency, will go ahead regardless of whether there's a final exit deal between the EU and the UK or not.

Under the EU Withdrawal Agreement - endorsed by the EU but yet to be put to a vote in the UK Parliament - free movement within the EU will continue until the end of the 31 December 2020 transition period. Whether there will still be freedom of movement up to the end of that period in the event of "no deal", or whether there will be a transition period at all in a "no deal" scenario, isn't clear.

The EU Settlement Scheme will open to all applicants on 30 March 2019 - yes, one day after Brexit! All EU nationals who've had five years' continuous residence in the UK are eligible. You have until 30 June 2021 to apply. If your five years in the UK won't have accrued until some time before 30 June 2021, you'll have to wait till the date you've been here five years to apply.

Been here for less than five years? Then you'll have to apply after 30 March for "pre-settled status", a temporary status you can later upgrade when you hit five years.

You're allowed some long absences from the UK - for example for maternity or military service. You'll need to produce evidence that you've actually been in the UK for at least six months of each of the five years you were supposedly resident here.

There have been some Settlement Scheme trials - the take-up was so low that there's very little data to report, except that all who applied so far and who've heard a result were accepted. A lot of users in the trial reported problems with the EU Exit: ID Document Check app for applying for the Scheme. There were glitches with scanning the documents, with many reporting they had to go back and do several steps all over again. The app doesn't work outside the UK either. There was also widespread criticism of the "data protection statement" that came with the app: it says your data may be shared with private and public organisations both in the UK and abroad.

As far as we know, no self-employed people have taken part in the trials up to now. The UK.GOV advice includes what to do "if you stop work or self-employment", which suggests that self-employment is likely to have equal status to employment in the eyes of the Scheme.

While you're waiting for applications to open in March, you'll need to have the following ready:

  • ID: This is a passport or a biometric national identity card from your EU member state. Best to get both if you haven't got both already. You can send a scan of your passport or send it by post: if you're sending it by post, best plan for the inevitable Home Office delays and screw-ups, so that you can still travel on your national identity card while the Home Office are sitting on your passport. You'll also need to upload a digital photo of your face.
  • Proof of continuous residence: The Home Office advice says your National Insurance number should be enough - they can use this to run a check on tax and benefit records. They say they will contact you immediately if they need any more documents. There's a list of the documents that will count towards evidence of your residence - we note that invoices carry less weight than payslips!

    If your tax records aren't up to date, sort it out now. You need to get your 2017-2018 tax return in by 31 January anyway, to avoid an automatic three-figure fine.

  • Criminality: You'll be asked about your previous convictions, they will run a check on unnamed "UK crime databases." Something of the magnitude of a prison sentence will complicate your application, otherwise you're OK. The Joint Council for the Welfare of Immigrants are bringing a judicial review on this provision, they argue that it breaches EU directives on freedom of movement, which only allows restriction of movement on the grounds of "serious criminality." A few EU nationals in the UK, for example, have Removal Orders against them (sometimes without their knowledge) on spurious grounds.

In most cases, it'll cost you £65 - or half that for each of your kids. You can apply via a smartphone, tablet, laptop or PC, or by post using a downloadable printable form. "Vulnerable" people without access to theinternet are promised support in applying. (The app for the Scheme now works on iPhones too, according to the GOV.UK web page.)

You should get some sort of reply within a couple of weeks once applications are open.

It's probably a good idea for EU nationals in the UK to register with their embassy if they haven't done so already, and sign up to the email newsletters many EU member state embassies now send up updating their nationals on Brexit.

Europe Street News is also a good source of information on citizens' rights and Brexit.

The fate of nationals of Iceland, Lichtenstein and Norway is more vague. The UK government still seems determined also to leave the European Economic Area (EEA) of which their countries are members. So far, the UK government has only reported "discussions" with EEA members about extending the benefits of the EU Settlement Scheme to their nationals in the UK as well.

The future of Swiss nationals in the UK looks even more vague. We have learned only that the UK is "seeking to secure the same protections for UK nationals living in Switzerland as for UK nationals living in the EU, on a reciprocal basis, through an agreement with Switzerland."