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'Brexit' - latest developments

Brexit will mean changes to the rights of EU nationals living in the UK before it leaves the EU, and for new arrivals from the EU afterwards. So far, there have been only general proposals, with few changes yet brought into practice. Revised guidance will appear on the site as regulations change - and the main points will be included here.

Proposed arrangements for European nationals already resident in the UK

The biggest issue so far is the future of EU nationals already resident in the UK. This was covered in detail in the agreement reached in December 2017 and set out in a detailed technical document (pdf). It covers the status of EU citizens in the UK on 'Brexit day':

  • People who arrive by 29 March 2019 and have been continuously and lawfully living in the UK for 5 years will be able to apply to stay indefinitely by getting ‘settled status’.
  • People who arrive by 29 March 2019, but will not have been here lawfully for 5 years when the UK leaves the EU, will be able to apply to stay until they have reached the 5-year threshold. They can then also apply for settled status.
  • Family members who are living with, or join, EU citizens in the UK by 29 March 2019 will also be able to apply for settled status after 5 years in the UK.

However, there are many detailed issues still to be resolved, as the BBC makes clear.

There is a government web page on what you need to know about settled status for EU nationals in the UK, updated in January. Guidance on obtaining settled status was issued in November. The Home Office has published a set of example cases of different kinds of situation facing EU nationals, with guidance on what will happen to each.

The Migration Observatory reports on the difficulties that might be faced by some applicants. Free movement sets out problems that might be faced by children in EU families.

Arrangements for EU nationals who arrive during the 'transition period'

If EU nationals arrive in the UK after March next year but during the ‘implementation period’ (currently until December 2020) will they have the same rights as those already here? Proposed rules were published in February by the Home Office.

They said:

  • EU citizens who arrive during this post-Brexit period will have to register if they wish to stay for longer than three months. Registration will be “straightforward and streamlined” and there will be an additional three-month window for applications after the implementation period to ensure there is no cliff edge.
  • Irish citizens will not need to register.
  • EU citizens and their family members who arrive, are resident and have registered during the implementation period will be given a temporary status in UK law that will enable them to stay for five years. They will then be able to apply for indefinite leave to remain in the UK.    
  • There will be key differences between these rights and those of EU nationals who arrived before March 2019. The most important is that they will have to abide by the same rules as UK nationals in bringing family members to the UK, including income requirements.
  • These rights will be subject to UK law, not EU law.
However, these last two points have been dropped in the draft transition deal published on 19 March, which insists that 'free movement' rules will apply to all EU nationals who arrive during the transition period (which now ends on 31 December 2020).

Post-Brexit immigration policy

The government has promised a white paper on its post-Brexit immigration policy. This was originally promised in summer 2016, but has now been postponed until after a 'transition deal' is done, possibly in June or July this year. This means that the future rights of EU nationals, who come to the UK after 'Brexit day', are still unclear. The FT lists 13 categories of migrant who might be disadvantaged by Brexit.

Sources of guidance for European nationals resident in the UK

Here are some useful links to other sources of guidance:

  • 'settled status' is explained in this article by McGill & Co
  • the ILPA has a series of briefings about the rights of residence of EEA and Swiss nationals
  • Free Movement publishes a free set of e-book guides, aimed at different types of EU or EEA national who may want to apply for residence documents in the UK.

Should EU nationals sign up for email alerts rather than apply for residence documents?

The Home Office requested EU nationals concerned about their status merely to ask for email alerts, but McGill & Co question if this is a good idea.

Need for EU nationals to have comprehensive sickness insurance

A post on the Free Movement website asks whether EU nationals resident in the UK need sickness insurance if they want to establish their right of residence.

How to make a permanent residence application

Free Movement has a step-by-step guide to help do this.

Effects of Brexit on Irish nationals

A House of Commons paper describes the 'Common Travel Area' and how it might change under Brexit, affecting Irish nationals.

Effects of Brexit on asylum seekers and refugees

The government has said little on this issue but Free Movement has examined it in three articles, starting here.

Effects of Brexit on migration, housing need and housing entitlements

CIH has published a What you need to know summarising possible effects and scenarios and has a webinar for CIH members.

More information will be published here as it becomes available.


We welcome suggestions for updating the guidance on the Housing Rights website and for including links to relevant new sources of guidance or information.

Please email policyandpractice@cih.org with any suggestions, making clear your message refers to this website.

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