Policy actions  1 of 3

EU and EEA citizens in Scotland

We want Scotland to continue to be a vibrant, diverse country that faces outwards and is a confident and responsible global citizen. That means welcoming free movement of people because it reflects the welcoming place we want to be.  Not only does Scotland (and the UK) benefit enormously from the contribution made by citizens of other EU countries, but we also benefit from the opportunity that free movement gives to Scots to live and work in other EU countries.

We are particularly concerned about protecting the rights of family members of EU citizens, the processes of applying for new settled status in the UK, and continued access to independent judicial redress.

We will do all we can to support the 234,000 EU citizens living in Scotland through this difficult time, and we will continue to push the UK Government to do the same.

EU and EEA citizens' rights

We recognise that this is a difficult time for EU and EEA citizens living in Scotland, many of whom have lived here for decades and built lives here with their families. EU and EEA citizens are understandably concerned about their future rights and status.

The UK left the European Union on 31 January 2020. We're now in a transition period (also known as the implementation period) that's likely to last until the end of December 2020. The Withdrawal Agreement  between the UK and the EU extends to EU citizens and their families who come to the UK during this transition period. 

EU Settlement Scheme

The EU Settlement Scheme opened fully on 30 March 2019 and is operated by the UK Government. Read more about the EU Settlement Scheme and apply on the Gov.uk website

In October 2017 the First Minister made a public commitment to meet the cost of settled status applications for EU citizens working in the devolved public services in Scotland. This later became a Programme for Government commitment. On 21 January 2019, UK Prime Minister announced that there would be no fee. This now means that the initially proposed £65 fee for applying to the EU Settlement Scheme no longer applies.

In December 2020 the Minister for Public Finance and Migration wrote to the UK Government’s Minister for Future Borders and Immigration regarding the impact of COVID-19 on the EU Settlement Scheme, particularly in relation to EU students.

Supporting EU citizens in Scotland

We want EU and EEA citizens and their families to continue to make their lives here in Scotland. We have set out our position in:

All four publications make it clear that we believe the UK should remain in the European single market and continue to benefit from the free movement of people.

The First Minister, in her open letter to EU citizens immediately after the referendum, called on the UK Government to provide assurances that those living here would have their rights protected and to make it clear that Scotland remains a stable and open place to live, study, work and do business. The First Minister wrote a second open letter to all EU citizens in Scotland in April 2019, telling them how much we value their contribution and urging them to stay in Scotland. The First Minister wrote a third open letter to all EU citizens in Scotland in October 2019 underlining the importance of applying to the EU Settlement Scheme and sharing information on the support available to EU citizens in Scotland. The First Minister wrote a fourth open letter to all EU citizens in Scotland in December 2020 urging them to apply to the EU Settlement Scheme.

As well as publicly stating our desire for EU citizens to remain in Scotland, we have produced the Stay in Scotland package of practical support and advice. This package includes a range of resources to support EU citizens and employers with EU staff.

The package also includes the EU Citizens Support Service, operated by Citizens Advice Scotland. The Advice and Support Service includes a free national helpline for anyone affected by the EU Settlement Scheme. You can receive information, advice and support by calling 0800 916 9847. Android devices for completing the ID document check can also be access through your local Citizens Advice Bureau. 

As part of the package, we worked with JustRight Scotland to publish a number of factsheets explaining EU citizens’ rights in Scotland. The factsheets provide information on EU citizens rights to vote, work and access healthcare, education, housing and benefits.

Other resources

UK Government resources

Legal assistance


Expert Advisory Group on Migration and Population Publications

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