Over a year after the referendum in which Britain voted to leave the European Union, Theresa May has sought to clarify plans regarding the future of EU citizens living in the UK.
It is a subject which had attracted more questions than answers – hundreds were submitted to the BBC.
On Monday the government released a 15-page document outlining some of the detail of their plans.
BBC Reality Check has pored through the details and returned to your questions with some answers.
- Will Irish citizens be exempt from this five-year residency requirement, and continue to be afforded equal treatment with UK nationals?
Yes, Irish citizens residing in the UK will not need to apply for settled status to protect their entitlements as the UK Government are committed to protecting the Common Travel Area arrangements.
- What rights will EU citizens lose under the current proposal?
The residents who have “settled status” will be treated the same way as UK nationals in terms of benefits, pension, social security and access to public services.
But under the UK proposal, “settled status” would not give citizens the same family or legal rights they currently enjoy.
For example, income tests would be applied for those who want to bring non-EU family members to the UK. And the European Court of Justice would no longer guarantee EU citizens’ rights. The EU wants to preserve all these rights and this will be an important subject of the EU-UK Brexit talks.
- What will happen to the matter of combining pension contributions from different EU countries to build up your pensions? Will this remain?
The UK document proposes that it should remain.
More on Brexit and EU citizens’ rights
- Will UK-born children of EU nationals (living here more than 20 years) be able to register as British Citizens rather than naturalizing?
If a child is born in the UK after a parent acquires settled status, the child would automatically become British.
The lawyer advising us said: “The following question relating to children of EU nationals and citizenship is difficult to answer as UK nationality law is a very complex area.
“The scenario in the question raises numerous further questions. To be able to advise definitively we would need to know when the child was born in the UK (before or after the parent acquired settled status in the UK) as a child born in the UK after a parent acquires settled status would automatically become British.
“Separate to this, the child may also have become British after 10 years of residence in the UK, which would negate the need for registering as British.”
- What kind of document will I be provided with to prove I have rights to stay in UK as a citizen?
Those with “settled status” will be provided with a residence document of some kind.
- If one already has a document certifying permanent residency would he/she still need to apply for a UK settled status?
Yes, he/she will still have to apply for the “settled status” but the government says it would make the application process “as streamlined as possible for those who already hold such documents”.
- Will the “settled status” be lost if you leave the UK for two years (like Permanent Residency)?
Yes, it will be lost, unless you have “strong ties” in the UK, the UK government paper says.
- What happens to the EU citizens who have not lived in the UK up to five years?
They will also be allowed to stay. Those who arrived less than five years before a cut-off date will be able to apply for settled status once they reach the five-year total, providing that falls within the two-year grace period which will start after the cut-off date. The UK proposed 29 March 2017 as the earliest cut-off date and the day the UK exits the EU as the latest.
Those who don’t reach the five-year total within the grace period will be able to apply for a temporary residence permit. If you still haven’t reached the five-year total after the end of the grace period, your situation will depend on the new rules, which are yet to be decided.
More of your Brexit questions answered
- Would EU citizens still be able to move to the UK in the next two years until March 2019?
Yes, they would. The UK is a member of the EU until it withdraws so the freedom of movement rules will apply until then.
- Why shouldn’t British courts have full jurisdiction over EU citizens rights living in the UK? Wasn’t that the whole point of Brexit?
The UK government says the European Court of Justice will not have jurisdiction over EU citizens’ rights. The EU demands that it does. This will be an important sticking point in the Brexit negotiations.
- How can a lifetime stay be guaranteed? Could a future government change the law?
Once the UK leaves the EU, any future government will in principle be able to propose amendments to the rules, and the UK parliament would decide on the new law.
- I plan to retire to France within the next two years and buy a property. Will this be possible after Brexit?
You can buy property and retire anywhere in the world, subject to the rules of the country you are retiring in. So, you’ll be able to do that, but we don’t know what your exact rights will be until the UK and EU conclude the citizens’ rights negotiations.
- I’m an EU national living in the UK but my wife is from outside the EU. Is her status going to change?
Your wife, as a family member of an eligible EU citizen who has been resident in the UK before we leave the EU, will also be eligible to apply for settled status with you, provided that she too meets the settlement criteria and has been in a genuine relationship with you while resident in the UK.