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How Long Does it Take to Get a Decision on a European Family Permit?

Did you know that even if you are from a country outside the EU/EEA, you can live in the UK for up to six months if you have a close family member who is an EU national living in the UK? Post-Brexit, the route and process for how this is done has changed with the phasing out of the EEA Family Permit scheme, which has now been superseded by the EU Settlement Scheme Family Permit. In this article, we will explain how the EU Settlement Scheme Family Permit works, the eligibility criteria, and the processing time.

EEA Family Permit now phased out

The EEA Family Permit scheme, which was for non-EEA nationals with EEA family members in the UK, is now closed for applications. Furthermore, existing EEA Family Permits became invalid from 30th June 2021. The latest guidance on the Home Office website advises eligible non-EEA nationals “you may be able to apply for an EU Settlement Scheme family permit coming to the UK”.

What is the EU Settlement Scheme (EUSS) Family Permit?

Certain non-EU/EEA nationals with family members from the EU, Switzerland, Norway, Iceland or Liechtenstein can secure an EU Settlement Scheme Family Permit living in the UK for up to six months. For those who secure an EUSS Family Permit, they will be able to spend six months in the UK, allowing them to study and work. The permit also allows holders to leave and return to the UK as many times as they wish during the period of its validity.

Applicants can expect EUSS family permit processing times for 2021 of up to six months, but assuming that your application is straightforward, this may be as little as 4-12 weeks.

Am I eligible for the EU Settlement Scheme (EUSS) Family Permit?

In order to be eligible for an EUSS Family Permit, your family member must be either your:

  • spouse, civil partner or unmarried partner
  • child or grandchild under 21
  • dependent child or grandchild over 21
  • dependent parent or grandparent

This also covers those who were adopted.

If you are the spouse or civil partner of a Swiss citizen living in the UK, the rules are slightly different. In this case, it is still possible to secure an EUSS Family Permit, but you must have married or formed your civil partnership between 31st December 2020 and 1st January 2026 and still be married or in a civil partnership when you apply.

There are several ways to secure an EUSS Family Permit depending on your family relationship, as follows:

For family members of someone from the EU, Switzerland, Norway, Iceland or Liechtenstein

If you are a non-EU/EEA national and have an eligible family member from the EU, Switzerland, Norway, Iceland or Liechtenstein who started living in the UK before the end of 2020, then you will be eligible for an EUSS Family Permit. The guidance also explains that this route includes family members who have British citizenship if they also have “their citizenship from the EU, Switzerland, Norway, Iceland or Liechtenstein if they lived in the UK before becoming a British citizen (also known as a ‘Lounes case’)”. It also covers family members who have dual nationality from an EU nation, Switzerland, Norway, Iceland or Liechtenstein, and they settled in the UK before 16th July 2012 “without using their free movement rights”. A final option under this route is to apply if you have a family member who resides outside the UK but regularly travels to the UK for their employment (also known as a ‘frontier worker’).

For those who used to have family members living in the UK

Another route to consider is ‘referred right of residence’; this is available if you did have a family member from the EU, Switzerland, Norway, Iceland or Lichtenstein living in the UK before the end of 2020, but they have now deceased, or they have departed the UK. It also applies if the family relationship has since ceased.

For family members of a British citizen

This is commonly referred to as a ‘Surinder Singh’ route and enables a family member of a British citizen to apply for a Family Permit if they resided together in an EU country, Switzerland, Norway, Iceland or Liechtenstein, prior to the start of 2021, before returning to the UK.

For family members of an eligible person of Northern Ireland

It is possible for a family member of a person who is Irish, British or dual British and Irish citizen who was born in Northern Ireland to apply for an EUSS Family Permit. The rules also state that “when they were born, they must also have had a parent who held British, Irish or dual citizenship (or had no restriction on how long they could stay in Northern Ireland)”.

How do I apply for an EUSS Family Permit?

You will need to apply online on the Home Office website for your EUSS Family Permit. The current guidance states there is no deadline for your application to be made. There is also no fee payable when applying for your EUSS Family Permit. You will, however, have to provide all the evidence and documentation requested by the Home Office, which may include:

  • your passport
  • your national identity card, if you’re from the EU, Switzerland, Norway, Iceland or Liechtenstein
  • a marriage or civil partnership certificate
  • a document issued under the EEA regulations showing you’re their spouse or civil partner - for example, a family permit or residence card
  • evidence of being an unmarried partner (i.e. that you were in a long-term relationship before the end of 2020) such as bank statements and joint finances
  • evidence of being a dependant child, grandchild, parent, or grandparent such as birth certificates.

How we can help

There may be other, more favourable routes that will allow you to live in the UK, depending on your circumstances and those of your family members. It may be possible to make a late application for the EU Settlement Scheme for Pre-Settled or Settled Status, or even for a family visa. It is advisable to speak to an immigration Solicitor in the UK, who will be able to explain your various immigration options and those of your own dependant family members.

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Cheyam Shaked

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