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As the briefing’s disclaimer notes, this information was correct at time of writing. The briefing may no longer reflect the current position. 

This briefing provides an overview of the EU Settlement Scheme (EUSS).

The scheme is open for applications from EU, EEA and Swiss citizens (hereafter referred to commonly as “EU citizens”) and their family members. It was implemented in a phased approach.

The EUSS has been established to grant eligible applicants an immigration status allowing them to remain in the UK following its departure from the EU. The new status is necessary as the UK intends to repeal the law of free movement at the end of the transition period.

The GOV.UK webpage ‘Apply to the EU Settlement Scheme (settled and pre-settled status)’ sets out who needs to apply under the EUSS, alongside relevant deadlines and eligibility criteria. The Government have also devised an online tool for people to find out what to do and when if they wish to continue living in the UK after Brexit. This tool allows individuals to input their personal circumstances and be directed to general information.

The detailed rules on the EUSS are found in Appendix EU of the Immigration Rules. The Appendix sets out the legal basis on which settled status or pre-settled status will be granted.

The Library Insight ‘The progress of the EU Settlement Scheme so far’ analyses the statistics on applications to the scheme. It is updated as new statistical information on the scheme is released.

What is the EUSS?

The EUSS is a Home Office scheme which implements the citizens’ rights provisions of the Withdrawal Agreement. It does this by granting UK immigration status to EU citizens and their families who are living in the UK under EU free movement law. EU citizens must be resident in the UK prior to the end of the transition period to be eligible for status under the EUSS, with some exceptions. The application deadline is the 30 June 2021, as per the conditions in the Withdrawal Agreement.

The scheme should grant applicants either settled or pre-settled status. In accordance with Article 15 of the Withdrawal Agreement, EU citizens who have 5 years continuous residence in the UK ‘shall have the right to reside permanently’. This right is granted by the UK in the form of settled status.

EU citizens who have yet to accrue 5 years continuous residence are eligible to apply for pre-settled status. Pre-settled status allows the holder to remain in the UK for a further 5 years from the date they were granted pre-settled status. This provides the necessary time for applicants to become eligible for settled status. Holders of pre-settled status can then switch to settled status by submitting another application if they meet the eligibility requirements.

The Government has said settled or pre-settled status will allow EU citizens to continue living and working in the UK after it leaves the EU on broadly the same terms as they do under EU law.[1]

There has been criticism of the EUSS for forcing people to make an application to remain in the UK. Some have instead argued the scheme should be declaratory, and that the evidential requirement should be removed.

EUSS conditions

The EUSS has broadly been established in line with the provisions set out in the Withdrawal Agreement but has more favourable conditions than stipulated in some areas.

The UK has similar agreements with EEA countries and Switzerland in the form of the UK-EEA Separation Agreement and the Swiss Citizens’ Rights Agreement. Both agreements largely mirror the provisions set out in the Withdrawal Agreement in relation to residency. As such, the EUSS applies to EU, EEA and Swiss nationals.

Application process

The application checks three basic principles; identity, UK residency and suitability. The process is primarily online and has been designed to be streamlined compared to other immigration applications.

The EUSS is open to EU, EEA and Swiss citizens, and some non-EEA citizens in certain circumstances. It is estimated that as of mid-2019 there are around 3.4 million EU citizens currently living in the UK (excluding Irish nationals, who need not apply).[2] Taking into account people who have migrated to the UK while the scheme has been open, the number of people required to apply in order to secure their status could be closer to 4 million.[3] Implementing a scheme with such a high number of potentially eligible applicants presents a significant challenge for the Home Office.[4]

The initial Statement of Intent declared the Government will be ‘looking to grant, not for reasons to refuse’ during the application process.[5]

Then Prime Minister Theresa May announced in January 2019 that the application fee would be waived when the scheme opened fully on 31st March 2019.[6] Applications to the EUSS are therefore now free of charge, and all applicants who paid the fee during the test phase are entitled to a refund.[7]


Immigration advice

Only qualified persons can provide immigration advice. Unregulated advisors who give immigration advice are subject to civil and criminal penalties. The Office of the Information Services Commissioner (OISC) regulates the provision of immigration advice. The OISC published guidance related to ‘Immigration Assistance’ in December 2018 which applies to the EU Settlement Scheme.

[1]    GOV.UK, Policy Paper: EU Settlement Scheme: statement of intent, 21st June 2018

[2]    ONS, ‘Population of the UK by country of birth and nationality July 2018-June 2019’, table 2.1, and ‘Population of the UK by country of birth and nationality: individual country data July 2018-June 2019’, table D

[3]    More detailed estimates were made in House of Commons Library, Insights for the New Parliament 2019 (January 2020), p.16-17.

[4]    Independent Chief Inspector of Borders and Immigration, An inspection of the EU Settlement Scheme, November 2018-January 2019

[5]    GOV.UK, Policy Paper: EU Settlement Scheme: statement of intent, 21st June 2018

[6]    Hansard, House of Commons debate, Leaving the EU, 21st January 2019, Column 28

[7]    GOV.UK, EU Settlement Scheme: application fee refunds, 28th March 2019

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