The right of every EU citizen and their family members to live, work or study in any EU Member State is one of the foundations of the European Union. Many EU and United Kingdom citizens have made their life choices based on rights related to free movement under EU law. 

Protecting these life choices has been the first priority from the beginning of the negotiations.

  • Figures from the UK Office for National Statistics (ONS, 2018) show that around 3.7 million EU citizens live in the UK. An estimated 985,000 are Polish nationals, followed by 433,000 Romanians and 337,000 Irish nationals.

  • An estimated 1.3 million UK nationals live within the EU27 (UN, 2017). Spain hosts the largest group of UK nationals living in the rest of the EU at an estimated 309,000. Ireland is the second with around 255,000, followed by France with 185,000 UK nationals.

What’s in the Withdrawal Agreement?

The Withdrawal Agreement guarantees these citizens and their family members broadly the same rights as they have now: they can continue to live, study, work and travel freely between the UK and the EU.

The same applies to any EU citizen who moves to the UK or UK nationals who move to an EU Member State during the transition period.

Who is protected by the Withdrawal Agreement?

The Withdrawal Agreement protects those EU citizens residing in the United Kingdom, and UK nationals residing in one of the 27 EU Member States at the end of the transition period.

It also protects the family members that are granted rights under EU law (such as current spouses and registered partners, parents, grandparents, children, grandchildren and a person in an existing durable relationship) to join their family member in the future.

Children will be protected by the Withdrawal Agreement, wherever they are born, before or after the United Kingdom's withdrawal from the EU, or whether they are born inside or outside the host state where the EU citizen or the UK national resides.

The only exception foreseen concerns children born after the United Kingdom's withdrawal and for which a parent not covered by the Withdrawal Agreement has sole custody under the applicable family law. 

Social security

The Withdrawal Agreement protects all those EU citizens who, at the end of the transition period, were in a situation involving both the United Kingdom and a Member State at a time. Their family members and their survivors are also protected.

Residence rights

The substantive conditions of residence are, and will remain, the same as those under current EU law on free movement.

In essence, EU citizens and UK nationals meet these conditions if they:

  • are workers or self-employed;
  • have sufficient resources and sickness insurance;
  • are family members of another person who meets these conditions;
  • have already acquired the right of permanent residence and are therefore no longer subject to any conditions.

The Withdrawal Agreement does not require physical presence in the host state at the end of the transition period – temporary absences that do not affect the right of residence and longer absences that do not affect the right of permanent residence are accepted.

Those protected by the Withdrawal Agreement who have not yet acquired permanent residence rights – if they have not lived in the host state for at least five years – will be fully protected by the Withdrawal Agreement, and will be able to continue residing in the host state and acquire permanent residence rights in the host state also after the United Kingdom's withdrawal from the EU.

EU citizens and UK nationals arriving in the host state during the transition period will enjoy the same rights and obligations under the Withdrawal Agreement as those who arrived in the host state before 1 February 2020 .

UK nationals’ residence rights in the EU27

To benefit from these rights, citizens may need to apply for a new residence status, according to each country’s decision to opt for a so-called constitutive or declaratory system.

Choices each countries made for their residence system, and deadlines by when UK nationals and their family members resident in countries with constitutive system must apply for a new residence status, can be found in the file below, together with key national websites.

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Please note that the information provided in the file above does not reflect the official opinion of the Commission. Responsibility for the information and views expressed therein lies entirely with the relevant national authorities of the Member States who are the first contact point for UK nationals. Please also note that the situation keeps evolving, so check regularly for the latest information and news at the listed national websites. The Commission will continue to update the information on this webpage with the latest input from the EU27 Member States.

On 12 May 2020, the European Commission adopted a Guidance Note, which will be instrumental for national authorities in the proper implementation of the Citizens’ Rights part of the Withdrawal Agreement.

The European Commission will monitor compliance in Member States.

The EU Settlement Scheme in the United Kingdom

EU, EEA or Swiss citizens in the United Kingdom will have to apply to the EU Settlement Scheme to be able to continue living in the United Kingdom after 30 June 2021.

If the application is successful, EU citizens will receive either settled status (conferring a permanent residence right) or pre-settled status (residence under 5 years). Failure to apply to the scheme could lead to deportation.

Once EU citizens with pre-settled status have accumulated 5 years of legal residence in the UK, they will be able to apply to have their residence status upgraded to a permanent one (settled status), which offers more rights and better protection.

The EU Settlement Scheme will be overseen by an Independent Monitoring Authority in the UK, which will handle complaints from EU citizens and their family members concerning alleged breaches of their rights under the Withdrawal Agreement, and report to the institutions overseeing the Withdrawal Agreement.

Implementation and monitoring: citizens' rights

The text of the Withdrawal Agreement on citizens' rights is very precise so that it can be relied upon directly by EU citizens in British courts and by UK nationals in the courts of the Member States. Any national law provisions that are not consistent with the provisions of the Withdrawal Agreement will have to be disapplied.

UK courts will be able to ask preliminary questions to the Court of Justice of the EU on the interpretation of the citizens' part of the Withdrawal Agreement for a period of eight years following the end of the transition period. For questions related to the application for the UK settled status, that eight-year period started running on 30 March 2019.

The implementation and application of citizens' rights in the EU will be monitored by the Commission acting in conformity with the Union Treaties.

The UK’s Independent Monitoring Authority will be granted equivalent powers to those of the European Commission to:

  • receive and investigate complaints from Union citizens and their family members;

  • conduct inquiries on its own initiative; and

  • bring legal action before UK courts on alleged breaches by the administrative authorities of the United Kingdom of their obligations under the citizens' rights part of the Withdrawal Agreement.

The Authority and the European Commission will inform each other annually through the Joint Committee established by the Withdrawal Agreement of the measures taken to implement and enforce the citizens' rights under the Agreement. Such information should include in particular the number and nature of complaints treated and any follow up on legal action taken. 

Joint reports on the implementation of residence rights

The joint reports provide an overview of implementation progress in relation to new residence status and issuance of residence documents evidencing such status for EU citizens in the United Kingdom and for United Kingdom nationals in EU Member States.

23 October 2020

First joint report on the implementation of residence rights under part two of the withdrawal agreement

First joint report on the implementation of residence rights under part two of the withdrawal agreement

More information

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