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Despite the UK still being in the EU after its scheduled departure date, the ‘post-Brexit’ EU settlement scheme remains in place. On 30th March, a number of positive changes were made.

The changes relate to the basis on which an EU citizen and their family members – and the family members of a qualifying British citizen – will be granted indefinite leave to remain (settled status) or limited leave to remain (pre-settled status).

Liechtenstein, Iceland, Norway and Switzerland

It has now been decided that citizens of Liechtenstein, Iceland, Norway and Switzerland that are resident in the UK – along with their family members – can apply and from the 9th of April, they can do so from outside the UK. This effectively means that they can obtain status based on their previous residence in the UK, without needing to travel here in order to make an online application.

Other key updates include:

  • Family members of British citizens who were exercising their free movement rights under EU law before returning to the UK (‘Surinder Singh’ cases); are now able to apply through the scheme
  • People lawfully resident in the UK by virtue of a derivative right to reside may apply
  • Those residing in Guernsey, Jersey and the Isle of Man (the Crown Dependencies) will be counted as UK residents for the purposes of the Scheme
  • EEA and Swiss citizens previously resident in the UK will be able to count as UK residence for the purposes of the Scheme if they have spent time on an overseas posting as a Crown servant, as will a partner or child of any nationality accompanying them or accompanying a member of HM Forces on an overseas posting.
  • There will be no application fee
  • In certain circumstances, an application under the Scheme will be made on a paper application form rather than through the online application process. This will be the case of applications made on the basis of derivative right cases where additional information is required under the Scheme.
  • Paper applications might also complement the online application process for people requiring digital support to complete the application.
  • Applicants in the UK can use a wider range of documents as proof of their identity and nationality: a valid national ID or a valid passport for an EEA or Swiss citizen, and a valid passport or a biometric residence permit (BRP) for a non-EEA/Swiss citizen family member, as well as a valid biometric residence card;
  • There will also now be scope for applicants to submit their identity document by post as an alternative to using the identity verification app
  • There is also now scope for the Secretary of State to accept alternative evidence of identity and nationality where the applicant is unable to provide the required document due to circumstances beyond their control or to compelling practical or compassionate reasons.

There a number of other new provisions, which alongside those outlined above, reflect a process that is rapidly evolving. These changes, without question, make it easier for applicants. They also reflect a greater openness than before by welcoming EEA countries and Switzerland to apply.

The extension(s) to article 50 also work in applicants’ favour by giving them more time to be in the UK as EU citizens without worrying.

When we actually leave the EU – if at all – is a question for another day!

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