Bishop & Sewell

On 25 November 2018 the EU Heads of State approved the draft Withdrawal Agreement setting out the terms of the UK’s departure from the European Union.

The terms of the Withdrawal Agreement generated heated debate across the political divide and led to a number of resignations from the government. Whilst the debates continue, the draft agreement was approved by the 27 EU member states at a mini-summit scheduled on 25 November 2018. It is now being put through the UK parliament, with the expectation that the parliamentary vote will take place on 11 December. However, there remains considerable uncertainly whether it will be passed by parliament and become law. It is useful at this juncture to re-state the current position for EU citizens in the United Kingdom.

Withdrawal agreement

Current position of EU citizens and family members in the UK

It remains the position in law that whilst the UK is a member of the European Union, EU citizens and their non-EU qualifying family members are able to freely enter the UK and reside lawfully for more than three months providing the EU citizen is exercising Treaty Rights. In brief, exercising Treaty Rights means they must be working; self-employed; self-sufficient or studying, though in reality checks that EU citizens are exercising Treaty Rights only generally happen if the EU citizen or a family member makes an application for a document confirming their status in the UK.

Currently, an EU citizen who has completed a period of at least five years in the UK exercising Treaty Rights ‘automatically’ becomes a permanent resident of the UK, as do their qualifying family members, although they must obtain a document to demonstrate this if they wish to apply to naturalise as a British citizen.

Proposed changes to the law

The UK is set to leave the European Union on 29 March 2019. If an agreement is reached with the EU and it passes through Parliament, it is expected there will be a transition period ending on 31 December 2020. This is provided for in the draft Withdrawal Agreement. As such, the vast majority of EU citizens would continue to be able to live, work and study in the UK in much the same way as now until at least December 2020.

EU Settlement Scheme

To provide further clarity the UK Government has also opened the EU Settlement Scheme for EU citizens and family members who are currently living in the UK or who arrive before 29 March 2019.

For advice and assistance on making a visa, immigration or nationality application or for any other immigration enquiry, please contact Charles or another member of our expert Immigration team on 020 7631 4141 or email

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