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
Until 31 December 2020 a transition period applies in accordance with the Withdrawal Treaty during which 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
If you resided in the United Kingdom before 31 December 2020 and you would like to continue to reside there after that date, it is of importance to make use of the EU Settlement Scheme and apply for a “pre-settled status” in due time. This is a status for persons who have legally been residing in the United Kingdom for less than 5 years. It is already possible to register now and you can do so until 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. Nonetheless, it is in your own interest to register as soon as possible and ideally before 31 december 2020 via the EU Settlement Scheme, even when you did not yet accumulate 5 years of continuous legal residence.
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 more information about the procedure can be found 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 resided in the United Kingdom before the end of the transition period (31/12/2020), but have not yet accumulated 5 years of continuous legal residence at the time of application, you will need to apply for “pre-settled status” before 30 June 2021 in order to continue to live in the United Kingdom after that date. Nonetheless, it is in your own interest to register as soon as possible and ideally before 31 december 2020 via the EU Settlement Scheme, even if you did not yet accumulate five years of continuous legal residence. After 5 years of continuous legal residence you can and must convert this status – by means of a second application – to a permanent “settled status”.