The IMA protects the rights of EU and EEA EFTA citizens, and the rights of their family members, living in the UK. We monitor UK public bodies to make sure they uphold the rights of EU citizens and to identify any systemic issues. We have the powers to launch inquiries and bring legal action, if appropriate, against bodies that don’t uphold the rights of EU citizens.
The IMA will consider any complaints where the treatment of an EU or EEA EFTA citizen, or their family member, by a UK public body falls short of the UK’s commitments. People may feel they’re being discriminated against in cases relating to housing, health care, education, immigration, justice or more.
A public body is any organisation or institution that provides a public service, such as councils, hospitals, job centres, schools and police stations.
The IMA upholds the rights of citizens from the 27 EU countries and those from the EEA EFTA countries of Iceland, Liechtenstein and Norway as outlined in the Withdrawal Agreement reached with the EU and the EEA EFTA Separation Agreement reached with the EEA EFTA nations.
The IMA does not have the power to uphold the rights of Swiss citizens (unless they also fall within the remit of the Withdrawal Agreement or EEA EFTA Separation Agreement, for example as a family member of an EU or EEA EFTA citizen living in the UK) as the Swiss Citizens’ Rights Agreement, reached between the UK and Switzerland, does not include a requirement for an independent body.
Citizens’ rights are set out in Part II of the EU-UK Withdrawal Agreement and Part II of the EEA EFTA Separation Agreement.
The citizens’ rights that the IMA covers are set out in Part II of the EU-UK Withdrawal Agreement and Part II of the EEA EFTA Separation Agreement.
Rights agreements between the UK and EU cover four areas:
The right to equal treatment and the prohibition of discrimination on the grounds of nationality apply to all these rights.
The Withdrawal Agreement means EU citizens and their family members living in the UK at the end of the transition period can stay in the UK. EU citizens and their family members need to apply for a new residence status through the EU Settlement Scheme. The Withdrawal Agreement provides a “grace period” for applications to be submitted and the deadline must be at least six months after the end of the transition period. In the UK, the deadline was 30 June 2021.
Citizens who do not have settled or pre-settled status after that time will not be covered by the Citizens’ Rights Agreements, apart from in some very limited and exceptional circumstances.
The Withdrawal Agreement and EEA EFTA Separation Agreement explain who is a family member. For example it includes a spouse, registered partner or direct relatives in the ascending line. This could include individuals who are EU or EEA EFTA citizens but equally, it could include a family member who is not an EU or EEA EFTA citizen (often referred to as a ‘third country national’).
Citizens can choose to make a complaint with assistance from a representative organisation if they do not feel personally comfortable submitting their complaint in English.
Personal details will not be shared without prior consent.
An example of where the IMA may wish to share personal details shared with us could be to enable the public body complained about to identify an issue of concern. It could also arise where the IMA takes legal action against a public body in court. However, any such sharing will be done with the consent of the individual concerned and only where it is necessary to do so.
The IMA exists to tackle systemic issues, practices and behaviours that cause widespread or persistent infringements of rights, for the benefit of the whole EU community in the UK. If you feel any government or public service has treated you unfairly, it is important that you complain to the IMA. If we receive many complaints about a certain issue it’s more likely that there’s a big problem that needs resolving. However, you should also raise your complaint with existing organisations that consider individual cases.
The recognition of professional qualifications is included in Part 2 of the Withdrawal and Separation Agreements. However, it only covers those qualifications that had been recognised before 31 December 2020, or in the course of being recognised before that date. Any qualifications not recognised or in the course of being recognised before that date, and therefore also any qualifications obtained after that date, are not covered by the Withdrawal and Separation Agreements.
The Centre for Professional Qualifications lists nearly 200 professions that are regulated in the UK – and offers advice to EU Citizens seeking recognition of qualifications.
Some examples include:
Education: Primary School Teachers, Childcare workers
Health: Doctors, Nurses, Dentists, Social Workers
Finance: Insolvency Practitioners, Chartered Accountants; Chartered Insurers, Chartered Bankers
Law: Barristers, Solicitors and Actuaries
Maritime: Deck Officers, Engineers and Divers
Construction and engineering: Architects; Registered Gas Engineers; Chartered Builders; Chartered Civil Engineers
Security: Door Supervisor, Security Guards, Cash and Valuables in Transport Operatives
Transport: Airport Firefighters, Driving Instructors, Road Work Operatives
Other: Inspector of Weights and Measures and Analyst Chemists, Chartered Chemist, Chartered Marketer
The Withdrawal Agreement / EEA EFTA Separation Agreement provide rights for those within scope of those Agreements. The rights include the right to live in the UK following the UK leaving the EU on 31 December 2020. To have this right, certain conditions have to be met.
In the UK, the EU Settlement Scheme (“EUSS”) was created to manage the arrangements for those who wanted to continue living in the UK after the UK left the EU. Those who wanted to continue living in the UK had to apply to the EUSS. Following a successful application to the scheme, a person will either be granted pre-settled status or settled status.
Pre-settled status is granted to those who have lived in the UK for less than five years.
Settled status is granted to those who have lived in the UK for more than five years in a row (there are certain limited circumstances where settled status can be granted earlier than after five years). This would usually include those who are granted settled status after they have lived in the UK for 5 years in a row.
Both statuses are granted, and continue to be valid, provided certain conditions continue to be met.
Under the Agreements, people who have resided in the UK for more than five years, and met the relevant conditions (generally that they have been working, self-employed, studying or self-sufficient during the five years), are entitled to the right of permanent residence. Such persons would be eligible to receive settled status following an application and obtaining settled status remains the easiest way under domestic law to prove your right to remain in the UK permanently. If you have been living continuously in the UK for at least 5 years, you are encouraged to apply for settled status at: https://gov.uk/eusettlementscheme. It is free to apply. However, it is not necessary to apply for settled status to access your permanent residence rights.
The Agreements also give a right to those who have lived in the UK for less than five years. Under the EUSS, persons who meet the relevant conditions and have lived in the UK for less than five years are given pre-settled status following an application.
Yes. To be able to live and work in the UK, on the basis of the rights contained in the Agreements, it is necessary to first make an application to the EUSS.
The main deadline for making an application to the EUSS was 30 June 2021, but those who have a good reason for missing that deadline can make a late application – see here for more information.
Direct effect is a legal concept. Within the context of the Agreements, it means that the rights within the Agreements are acquired automatically once a person has met the conditions for them.
This is the case even where domestic law (the law of the UK) is incompatible with those rights. They override domestic law and can be enforced directly against the authorities if needed.
Under the Agreements both the right of permanent residence, and the right to pre-permanent residence, have direct effect. This means that these rights arise automatically as above. In the case of pre-permanent residence (which in the UK is implemented via pre-settled status, an initial application is needed. However, if you continue to meet the conditions (for example, maintaining your continuous residence in the UK), you will continue to hold this right without the need for a further application. For pre-settled status holders, acquiring permanent residence does not require a further application for this. However, applying for settled status remains the best way to evidence your right of permanent residence.
As pre-settled / settled status is generally broader in scope than the rights of pre-permanent / permanent residence under the Agreements, i.e. the EUSS captures additional categories of people than that covered by the Agreements for example those who have not been carrying out qualifying activity, such as being a worker, self-employed, studying or self-sufficient. Only those rights which arise under the Agreements have direct effect. Citizens who have pre-settled status but not a right of residence under the Agreements generally, for example a Zambrano carer, cannot therefore enforce this residency right by way of direct effect.
Previously, under the EUSS, a person was required to make a second application to switch to settled status (or in very limited circumstances to re-apply for pre-settled status) before the expiry of their pre-settled status.
Failure to make that second application would have seen a person’s pre-settled status expire, leaving that person with no rights under the Agreements and therefore unable to continue living and working in the UK.
We felt the loss of rights at the end of this five-year period was not allowed under the Agreements.
We also felt that it was not essential for a person to apply for settled status in order to be entitled to permanent residence and the rights that flow from that (for example, with permanent residence, a person can be absent from the UK for much longer without losing their rights (up to five years). We thought that permanent residence would be acquired automatically by a person who met the relevant conditions for it.
The Home Office disagreed with our views. We therefore asked the court to decide what the Agreements said on these issues.
The Home Office is now required to implement the judgment. Further details on proposals were announced here.
One of the measures announced by the Home Office to implement the judgment is to extend an individual’s pre-settled status by two years shortly before it otherwise would have been due to expire.
This will ensure that individuals can continue to easily prove their right under the Withdrawal Agreement using their pre-settled status.
Initially, all holders of pre-settled status will see their status extended by 2 years shortly before the purported expiry date of their original pre-settled status grant if they have not already obtained settled status. This process will be automated by the Home Office and reflected in the person’s digital status. The Home Office will write to all holders of pre-settled status to let them know when their pre-settled status has been extended. They will not need to contact the Home Office.
In time, possibly toward the second-half of 2024 and before applying the extension, the Home Office plans to move to an approach where it is either automatically switching those eligible to settled status, cancelling pre-settled status where the person is no longer eligible (for example due to being outside the UK for too long) as permitted by the Agreements or extending pre-settled status.
The extension will be applied to everyone who holds PSS status, including those who applied via the Zambrano and Surinder Singh routes.
Currently, the 2 year extension is applied roughly 1-2 months before the expiry date of the person’s original pre-settled status grant should they not have already switched to settled status.
So, for example, if a person was granted pre-settled status in April 2020, their pre-settled status would’ve otherwise been set to ‘expire’ in April 2025. Their pre-settled status extension would be applied in February or March 2025. This would then mean that from February or March 2025, their pre-settled status, as shown on their UKVI account, would show it now expiring in April 2027.
To receive settled status, currently a person must apply for it.
Obtaining settled status remains the easiest way to prove your right to remain in the UK permanently. If you have been living continuously in the UK for at least 5 years, you are encouraged to apply for settled status at: https://gov.uk/eusettlementscheme. It is free to apply.
The Home Office are developing plans to automatically upgrade those who have pre-settled status but are eligible for settled status. Those plans are still being developed and we understand will not apply until later in 2024.
No. Extensions will be applied automatically.
You will be notified of the extension once it has been applied. Your UKVI Account will be updated with the new date for your status expiry.
No – the extensions are applied only to those who hold pre-settled status under the EUSS.
If you have received a communication notifying you about the extensions to pre-settled status, you can ignore it if you have already been granted settled status under the EUSS.
This is the ‘conduit pipe’ through which all of the directly effective rights that are contained in Part 2 of the Withdrawal Agreement flow into domestic law. It means that persons within scope of Part 2 of the Withdrawal Agreement can rely on those rights. This is even if there is a domestic law, policy, guidance or decision which says something differently.
The Withdrawal Agreement provides that persons within scope of Part 2 of the Withdrawal Agreement can rely directly on the rights contained in the Agreement where the rights meet the conditions for direct effect under EU law. This means that where the provisions of the Withdrawal Agreement are clear and unconditional, a person can rely on those provisions in court to request the disapplication of any conflicting domestic laws, policies, guidance or decisions.
For nationals of Iceland, Norway and Liechtenstein, the EEA EFTA Separation Agreement does not have direct effect. However, section 7B of the European Union (Withdrawal) Act 2018 nevertheless provides that the rights under the EEA EFTA Separation Agreement apply directly and override any conflicting domestic laws, policies, guidance or decisions.
The Home Office has committed to implementing the judgment of the High Court which means that no PSS holder will see their EUSS status expire by virtue of failure to make a further application to the scheme.
Those who still hold PSS at the end of the 2-year extension will be subject to further arrangements to ensure that they do not lose their rights where they continue to meet the underlying eligibility conditions. We are still clarifying with the Home Office the exact nature of those arrangements.
This should not happen as all holders of pre-settled status who have not yet switched to settled status will see their pre-settled status extended by 2 years shortly before the date on which their pre-settled status would have otherwise been due to expire.
If your pre-settled status has not had a 2-year extension applied, you should immediately contact the Settlement Resolution Centre. You should also report a complaint to the IMA via our online complaints portal so it can consider such issues in its assessment of the plans.
We continue to encourage holders of pre-settled status to apply for settled status as soon as they are eligible. Obtaining settled status remains the easiest way under domestic law to prove your right to remain in the UK permanently. If you have been living continuously in the UK for at least 5 years, you are encouraged to apply for settled status at: https://gov.uk/eusettlementscheme. It is free to apply.
We welcome the commitment by the Home Office that no one will lose their rights where they fail to make a second application to the EUSS. However, we continue to seek further information from the Home Office regarding how the full details of their plans will be implemented. We will provide updates of our progress in assessing the changes made to EUSS.
We understand that during 2024, the Home Office intends to take steps to automatically convert as many eligible holders of pre-settled status as possible to settled status, without them needing to make an additional application to the EUSS. The Home Office has stated that it will utilise government-held information to check a person’s continuous residence in the UK to determine whether they are eligible for settled status. We are seeking further information from the Home Office on this aspect of the proposals.
The Home Office has taken steps to ensure those eligible can access the rights to which they are entitled and where relevant, the date of acquisition of that right. The Home Office will be updating us on the details.
We are continuing to seek further information on this aspect of the plans. Further updates will be provided as our assessment progresses.
The Home Office has also made further changes to the EUSS. These are set out in the recent statement of changes to the immigration rules.
In line with our current approach to new key legislation which relates to rights under the Agreements, we will be preparing a legislation monitoring report outlining any concerns we have with the rules. The IMA are currently in discussions with the Home Office around the details of the report. We hope to be in a position to publish a report in the near future.
While we continue to assess the changes to the rules, below is a brief summary of the main aspects of the proposals.
We continue to seek further information regarding the detail of how these proposals will operate in practice and the full implications for citizens.
The Agreements provide that the UK may assess all the circumstances and reasons for missing the deadline to apply to EUSS of 30 June 2021 and to only allow applications if there are reasonable grounds for the failure to make their application by 30 June 2021.
The Home Office has amended the rules that govern the EUSS (Appendix EU to the Immigration Rules) to provide that where no such reasonable grounds exist, the application will be deemed invalid and rejected.
Details of what the Home Office considers to be reasonable grounds have now been set out in revised guidance. More information about this can be accessed here.
The rules that govern EUSS have been amended so that an application as a joining family member from an individual who entered the UK unlawfully will be deemed invalid and rejected. Joining family members can enter the UK by applying for an EUSS family permit here: Apply for an EU Settlement Scheme family permit to join family in the UK: Overview – GOV.UK (www.gov.uk)
Zambrano rights derive from the decision of the Court of Justice of the European Union in Case C-34/09 Ruiz Zambrano. In very broad terms, it relates to the primary carer who as of 31 December 2020 had a right to reside in the UK as the primary carer of a British citizen because without that right, the British citizen would have been compelled to leave the UK and the EU.
Surinder Singh rights derive from the decision of the Court of Justice of the European Union in Case C-370/90 Singh. In very broad terms, this route provided a right of residence to the family member of a British citizen who was returning to the UK having exercised free movement rights in the EU or EEA EFTA States (or Switzerland).
Both Zambrano and Surinder Singh (known as family member of qualifying British citizen cases under the EUSS) cases fall outside the scope of the Agreements.
From 08 August 2023, EUSS will be closed for those who would currently be eligible for status under EUSS.
This does not affect persons who already have PSS or SS having relied on the Zambrano or Surinder Singh eligibility rules under the EUSS. Those with PSS will be able to rely on this route to apply for SS. It does not impact those who have a pending application (or appeal) under these rules. It only impacts new applications made on or after 08 August 2023.