Brexit: what will happen to EU citizens in the UK?

I can vividly remember the first time I heard of Brexit. I was sat in a lecture debating the expansion of the European Union. Someone used Brexit as an argument that the EU should focus on keeping current countries happy instead of trying to get new countries to join in. I agreed. 

But what was then a hypothetical situation (that was also the topic of choice for many presentations), is now an uncertain reality quickly approaching us. Within just 5 months it will be official, the United Kingdom will no longer be part of the EU. But what will that mean for me, and all the other EU citizens currently living in the UK? 

The answer is unfortunately still very unclear, what does seem to be pretty solid now though is the registration process we will have to go through. By March 2019, EU citizens can apply for either a pre-settled or settled status to remain in the UK after the 2-year transition period. 

Transition period

Two and a half years is nowhere near enough to put everything in place before a country officially leaves the EU. This is why an additional 2 year transitional phase has been introduced to ensure that both the leaving country and the EU can deal with outstanding issues. Because EU citizens in the UK are only a small part of the problem, you’ve suddenly got to think about everything from the economy to something as normalised as your summer holiday to Spain. 

Naturally, it is in the interest of both parties to come to a solution that will benefit both the UK and the EU. However, finding the common ground is going to take a lot of time and negotiation. The way I look at this two-year period is the same as when a child first learns how to ride a bike. The little supporting wheels will stay on until both the parents and the child feel comfortable enough to continue without the support.  

Settled status

You can apply for settled status if you have been living in the UK for 5 years. With this status, your rights will practically remain the same as they are now for EU citizens in the UK. You will be able to stay in the UK for as long as you want and you can apply for British citizenship if you meet all requirements. With this status, you would also be able to leave the UK for up to 5 years in a row without having to apply for settled status again. When you start a family after you have received settled status your children will automatically become British citizens. 

Rights with settled status:

  • work in the UK
  • use the NHS
  • continue studying or enrol in education
  • access social benefits and pensions (when eligible)
  • after 31 December 2020 you can bring family members to the UK 
  • travel in and out of the UK 

Pre-settled status

What if, like me, you haven’t been in the UK for five years yet by March 2019?! Worry not, you can then apply for pre-settled status. This allows you to remain in the UK until you have reached five years, after which you can apply for settled status. With this status you would be able to spend up to 2 years in a row outside the UK without having to apply for pre-settled status again. If during this time you have children, they will automatically be eligible for pre-settled status. 

Rights with pre-settled status:

  • work in the UK
  • use the NHS
  • continue studying or enrol in education
  • access social benefits and pensions (when eligible)
  • after 31 December 2020 you can bring family members to the UK 
  • travel in and out of the UK 

The application process


You can apply for either from March 2019 until 30 June 2021. After this date you can only apply for either status if you are joining a family member with settled status in the UK. Luckily, the application will be online so you don’t have to sit and queue forever in some stuffy office! 

Not all good things come for free… Applying for (pre-) settled status will cost £65 (for those under 16 it will be £32.50). 

What you need to apply:

  • Proof of your identity (passport)
  • Proof of your residence in the UK (National Insurance number)

To prove continuous residence:

  • P60s or P45s
  • payslips
  • bank statements
  • utility bills
  • employer contracts or letters confirming employment 
  • letters, invoices or certificates from educational organisations
  • passport stamps confirming entrance in the UK
  • travel tickets confirming travel into the UK (air plane/train etc

I know this can all seem a little overwhelming, at least it was to me. It’s just the thought about the future and making things 100% official that scares me. I arrived in London for a 7 month internship, and now I am writing about what we (EU people) have to do should we want to stay… I didn’t think I’d still be in London after those first 7 months. Let alone apply for an official document that allows me to really call this country my home. 

For more information about the application process visit the website. 

Lots of love,