What will be the impact of Brexit if I have legally been residing in the United Kingdom for less than 5 years?
Until 31 December 2020 (unless transition period is extended)
The current situation is maintained. As long as you meet the conditions set out under European law, you retain your right of residence. After five years of continuous legal residence, you can benefit from permanent residency status. In principle, continuous legal residence means that you did not spend more than 6 months in each 12 months outside the United Kingdom. Once these five years have been accumulated, you must apply under the “settled status” system in order to obtain permanent residence status and to continue to live in the United Kingdom (see question 1).
From 1 January 2021 (unless transition period is extended)
After the expiry of the transition period, the United Kingdom will have the right to request your residency documents. Consequently, it is of importance to make use of the EU Settlement Scheme and apply for a “pre-settled status” in due time if you would like to remain in the United Kingdom. This is a status for persons who have legally been residing in the United Kingdom for less than 5 years at the expiry of the transition period. It is already possible to register now. According to their current position, the British authorities will allow you to register by 30 June 2021. In fact, this is a grace period of 6 months which extends the transition period for EU citizens who arrived in the UK before 31 December 2020.
You can obtain a “pre-settled status” as soon as you meet the applicable conditions, without the discretion of the British authorities. Please note that the conditions for application are explained under Practical suggestions for Belgians living in the United Kingdom. If your application is successful, you will be able to continue your residence in the United Kingdom. After you reach five years of continuous legal residence, you will have to apply for a permanent residence right via the procedure for a “settled status (see question 1). To calculate these 5 years, the period during which you lived in the United Kingdom before the end of the transition period will be taken into account (which means that neither the UK withdrawal nor the end of the transition period will reset the counter to zero). Furthermore, you can enter and leave the United Kingdom provided you are in possession of a valid identity card or passport. If you have a “pre-settled status” in the context of the EU Settlement Scheme, you will be able to enter and leave the UK with a valid identity card until at least 31/12/2025. With an "EEA family permit", your family members, originating from a non-EEA country, have easier and quicker access to the United Kingdom.
Conclusion: if you settled in the United Kingdom before the end of the transition period (31/12/2020 at the latest), but have not yet accumulated 5 years of continuous legal residence, you will need to apply for “pre-settled status” before 30 June 2021 in order to continue to live in the United Kingdom.