The government has laid a Statement of Changes to the Immigration Rules implementing the full opening of the EU Settlement Scheme from 30 March 2019. The scheme will apply regardless of whether there is a Brexit deal or not.
The scheme will allow EEA/Swiss citizens living in the UK by 31 December 2020 (or by 29 March 2019 if the UK leaves the EU without a deal) and their family members to apply for settled status once they have been continuously resident in the UK for five years. In the interim, they can apply for pre-settled status to cover the period until they have accumulated five years. Applications will need to be made by 30 June 2021 (or by 31 December 2020 if there is no deal).
The Statement of Changes confirms that:
- EEA/Swiss citizens and their family members will be able to apply under the scheme from outside the UK, so that they can obtain settled status, without needing to travel here in order to make an online application, based on their previous residence in the UK. Their family members will also be able to do so where, if they are non-EEA/Swiss citizens, they hold a valid biometric residence card issued by the UK.
- Applicants will be able to rely on a wider range of documents as proof of their identity and nationality (for EEA/Swiss citizens, valid national identity cards will be accepted in addition to passports and, for family members, passports and biometric residence permits will be accepted in addition to biometric residence cards).
- As an alternative to using the identity verification app available on Android smartphones or tablets, or visiting one of the locations at which they can be helped to use the app, there will be scope for applicants to submit their identity document by post to the Home Office to be checked and returned to them quickly.
- It will be possible for applications to be made on paper forms rather than through the online application process in very limited circumstances.