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Brexit agreement: What EU citizens living in the UK need to know

Brexit agreement: What EU citizens living in the UK need to know
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This article has been updated – it was originally published after a Brexit deal was struck between Theresa May's government and the European Union in November 2018.

It summarises the rights of EU citizens living in the UK as set out in that agreement. Although it was never ratified, the provisions on citizens' rights have been incorporated in the new divorce agreement negotiated by Boris Johnson's government with the EU.

The Brexit deal renegotiated between London and Brussels in October 2019 and approved by EU27 countries outlines the future rights of EU citizens currently living the UK, as well as Britons living on the continent.

Under the deal, EU nationals in the UK and Britons in the EU – plus family members – would retain residency and social security rights after Brexit. Freedom to move and live within the EU and UK would continue during a planned transition period. People would be allowed to stay when it ends and apply for permanent residence after five years.

The UK is now due to depart the EU on January 31, 2020. These rules will be applicable if Britain leaves with a ratified agreement -- but not if there is no deal. The British government has published separate advice for a "no deal" scenario and you can read our explanation here.

If however the Withdrawal Agreement is approved and you an EU citizen living in the UK, here is what you need to know:

Q:Will I be able to keep on living in the United Kingdom after January 31, 2020, the new date when the UK is due to leave the European Union?

A: Yes. Essentially the rights of EU citizens in the UK, and UK citizens in the EU, are protected by the agreement. If you are from the EU and have lived in the UK permanently for five years by the end of the transition period (currently December 31, 2020) then you will be able to continue to reside in the UK permanently.

Q:What if, by the end of the transition period I haven't lived in the UK for five years?

A: You will still be able to acquire the right to permanent residency by completing five years living in the UK, as long as you are legally resident by the end of the transition period. This right can only be lost if you leave the country for a period of more than five years.

Q:Will my permanent resident status be conferred automatically, with no further action on my part?

A: In most cases no, you will have to apply for your new residence status. Government guidelines say the deadline is 30 June 2021 -- six months after the end of the transition period. Exceptions are Irish citizens and people with indefinite leave to enter or remain in the UK.

Q:Will the application be free of charge?

A: Yes. The government announced in January that it was scrapping plans for a fee of £65 for over-16s, £32.50 for under-16s. Its guidance to EU citizens says it's free to apply to the scheme, and anyone who has paid to apply will get a refund.

Q:What if I miss the deadline for applying?

A: The agreement says applications should still be allowed within a reasonable time period, if there are reasonable grounds for missing the deadline. Reuters has reported that the Conservative government plans only to grant leniency in exceptional circumstances, and EU citizens may be deported if they fail to apply on time.

Q:Will my family be able to join me in the UK?

A: Yes, at least your close family - partners (married, civil and unmarried), dependent children and dependent parents or grandparents. However, the agreement does say that there are conditions attached to those who are defined as close family members or partners.

Q:Will I be able to continue working in the UK?

A: Yes, in general, you will have the same rights working in the UK as you have now, whether you are employed or self-employed. The agreement enshrines the principle of equal treatment between UK and EU citizens resident in each other's territories, in areas including employment, housing and education. Professional qualifications should continue to be recognised.

Q:What about the right to social security?

A: In general, EU citizens and their family members living in the UK by the end of the transition period should still be covered.

Q:Will I still be able to leave and re-enter the UK whenever I choose?

A: Yes, during the transition period, as long as you hold a valid passport or national identity card from issued by your country within the EU. After the transition period family members who want to join you in the UK may need a visa.

Q:I'm an EU citizen but I've never lived or worked in the UK and wish to apply after the transition period - what will be my rights?

A: This is not covered in the agreement. However, the Conservative government has made it clear it wants to reduce immigration to the UK and intends to end free movement for EU nationals as soon as possible. It has plans for a "points–based" immigration system for both EU and non-EU migrants, giving priority to those with skills.

The section on Citizens' Rights including the issues above is set out from pages 17–65 of the Withdrawal Agreement.


What's in Boris Johnson's Brexit deal with the European Union?

What does the Brexit agreement mean for UK citizens living in the EU?

What would a no-deal Brexit mean for citizens' rights?

EU settlement scheme in the UK: what is it and how does it work?

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