On 8 December 2017, an ‘agreement in principle’ was reached between the UK and the EU on the future rights of EU citizens currently living lawfully in the UK. This means that these individuals will be able to stay in the UK and enjoy broadly the same rights and benefits as they do now. This agreement applies equally to UK citizens currently living in the EU. However, a word of caution – this agreement is subject to the important caveat that ‘nothing is agreed until everything is agreed’. The Government maintains that EU citizens do not need to take any steps at this stage to establish immigration status.

Employers and their representative bodies have repeatedly expressed concerns that they were losing valuable workers, or struggling to recruit the skilled workers they need from other EU member states, because of the uncertainty these people feel after the EU referendum. The Home Secretary, Amber Rudd, has now written an open letter to EU citizens in the UK reassuring them that the rights they and their families currently have will remain broadly the same.

The Home Secretary acknowledged that EU citizens have had “an anxious wait while the fine details were ironed out” but has now emphasised that they will continue to have access to healthcare and benefits and their pensions will be protected. Their existing close family members living outside the UK will retain the right to join them in the future. She also promised that the newly designed digital system through which EU citizens will be able to get their new status will minimise bureaucratic hurdles, and applications will cost no more than the fee a British person pays for a passport. Anyone who already has valid permanent residence documentation will not be charged.

“You do not need to do anything just yet,” the Home Secretary concluded. “You will see more detail about the settled status scheme from us … and we expect applications will open during the second half of 2018.”

Key aspects of the agreement:

The key date for establishing rights will be 29 March 2019. EU citizens who legally reside in the UK before 29 March 2019 will be able to stay in the UK, and close family members will be able to join them after the UK has left the EU (where that relationship existed before, and continues after that date). These family members include spouses, unmarried partners, children, grandchildren, dependent parents and grandparents.

Individuals already holding a permanent residence document on 29 March 2019 will have that document converted into a new document free of charge, subject only to verification of identity, no criminality and security checks and confirmation of ongoing residence. Individuals who have acquired permanent residence rights can leave the UK for up to 5 consecutive years without losing their residence rights.

Peter Stanway, our BackupHR™ legal expert comments:

The implementation and application of citizens’ rights will be monitored in the UK by an independent national authority. Administrative procedures for applications for status will be transparent, smooth and streamlined. In particular, the UK will not be able to require anything more than is strictly necessary and proportionate to determine status. Application forms will be short, simple and user friendly, and a proportionate approach will be taken to those who miss a deadline for application where there is a good reason. A period of at least 2 years will be allowed to submit status applications.

Individuals can be kept up to date via the website Status of EU citizens in the UK: What you need to know, which includes case studies to help individuals determine their status rights.


  • Speak to your EU citizen workers to reassure them
  • Point them in the direction of the website
  • Monitor dates to remind them when action is needed and help if necessary

The guidance provided in this article is just that – guidance. Before taking any action make sure that you know what you are doing, or call us for a free initial chat on 01480 677980.