The United Kingdom (UK) officially left the European Union (EU) on 31 January 2020, and the post-Brexit transition period officially ended on 31 December 2020. Yet, EU law and free movement rules have not completely stopped applying yet. Until 30 June 2021, the UK is in a “grace period” during which EU citizens still enjoy certain rights guaranteed if they moved here before Brexit or before the end of the transition period. Old EU documents will officially no longer be valid after the grace period ends, a date which is now less than a month away, as they are replaced by new rules and new residence documents.
As such, UK residence cards and derivative residence cards (for family members, for example) will expire on 30 June 2021, at the end of the grace period. These residence cards were issued under the EEA Regulations 2016, which guaranteed that citizens of European Economic Area (EEA) countries and their family members who had been living in the UK for at least five years could apply for permanent residence. Getting a permanent residence card was not an obligation for EEA citizens, but a lot of them decided to do so to have a form of physical evidence of their UK residence. For non-EEA family members, the residence cards and derivative residence were more vital, as they were proof of their right to live and work in the UK. Such non-EEA family members were eligible for resident cards if they were living in the UK for less than five years as well.
The EEA Regulations stop applying when the grace period ends, on 30 June 2021. After this date, the documents issued under those Regulations will no longer be valid, even if they are not past their expiry date. Holders of such status will essentially be unlawful residents at that stage. To avoid this predicament, the old permanent residency documents must be replaced by a new residency status for EU/EEA citizens in the UK, namely either pre-settled or settled status under the EU Settlement Scheme.
Under the Scheme, those who already have a permanent residence document can essentially exchange it for settled status. Other residence card and derivative residence card holders will also be able to apply for settled status if they have been living in the UK for at least five years, and for pre-settled status if they have not yet reached five years’ residence. For those without permanent residence cards, the same rules apply – they can apply for settled status if they prove they have been in the UK for five consecutive years, and for pre-settled status if they have been in the country for less than that. The deadline to apply for the EU Settlement Scheme is – you guessed it – on 30 June 2021. All EU citizens resident in the UK are expected to apply for status by then should they want to remain in the UK legally. After that date, they will be unlawful residents and will have to make a late application should they still wish to stay, with no guarantees as to the outcome.
For traveling, the deadlines are different and unrelated to the grace period. EU ID cards remain valid documents for all EU citizens to use when crossing the UK border until 1 October 2021. After that, only those with status under the EU Settlement Scheme, frontier workers, Healthcare Visitors on S2 visas and Swiss Service Providers will be able to use their ID cards as a valid travel document. Those people will be able to travel in and out of the UK using their EU ID cards until at least 31 December 2025, whilst all others will need to show a passport valid for the whole time of their stay in the UK. The exception is Irish citizens, who can continue to enter and live in the UK indefinitely.
When the grace period ends on 30 June 2021, EU citizens should be prepared for the full applicability of the immigration rules, and have swapped their old residency documents for settled status. As for traveling, they get a slightly longer time period to catch up. If you need legal assistance making any of these applications, or have any other questions, you can contact us here, call us on 020 8142 8211, or send us a question on WhatsApp.