30 June 2021

Q and A: What is the EU Settlement Scheme and how does it work?

30 June 2021

The deadline to the apply to EU Settlement Scheme (EUSS), the post-Brexit residency launched in March 2019, closes on Wednesday.

The PA news agency looks at how the scheme works and what happens next.

– What is the EUSS?

EU citizens and their families have been asked to apply to the Home Office scheme by the end of June in order to continue living and working in the UK now the Brexit transition period and freedom of movement has ended.

This also includes people from the European Economic Area (EEA) countries of Iceland, Liechtenstein and Norway, as well as Switzerland.

Family members include non-EU nationals from those countries who are living with them in the UK.

Once granted status, applicants can use the NHS, study and access public funds and benefits, as well as travel in and out of the country. But first they must prove their identity, show they live in the UK and declare any criminal convictions.

– How many people have applied so far?

According to provisional Home Office figures to the end of May, 5.6 million (5,605,800) applications have been received since the scheme opened in March 2019 and 5.2 million (5,271,300) have been finalised.

Of the concluded applications, more than 2.7 million (2,754,100) were granted settled status, allowing them permanent leave to remain in the UK.

A further 2.2 million (2,276,200) were given pre-settled status, meaning they need to reapply after living in the country for five years to gain permanent residence.

Some 94,000 applications have been refused, 72,100 were withdrawn or void and 74,900 were deemed invalid – where the Home Office decides someone is not eligible to apply or has failed to provide sufficient proof of residence.

– What happens after the deadline?

People who are yet to apply effectively lose their lawful immigration status, which could prevent them getting a new job or moving house until this is confirmed under the scheme.

People will be able to submit late applications if they miss the deadline and meet the ‘reasonable grounds’ for doing so.

These include:

– Where a parent, guardian or council has failed to apply on behalf of a child.

– Where a person has a serious medical condition preventing them from applying in time.

– If someone is a victim of modern slavery, is in an abusive relationship, is vulnerable or lacks the ability to make the digital application.

– Other compelling or compassionate reasons, including in light of the coronavirus pandemic.

Late applications can take place years afterwards. For example, if a child discovered later in life that they are undocumented.

– What about people who have applied but are yet to receive a decision?

There is an estimated backlog of about 400,000 applications waiting to be processed.

It typically takes around five working days for complete applications to be processed, but it can take longer than a month if more information is needed.

The Home Office has not committed to completing all applications by June 30.

But the Government has confirmed that anyone who applies by the deadline will have their existing rights protected, subject to the decision and any appeal.

And applicants will have access to a “certificate of application” while they wait for a decision, which they can show anyone that requires proof of their application – such as employers and landlords.

– And what about those who do not apply?

Immigration enforcement officers will be given powers to issue a 28-day notice to anyone they discover who may be eligible for the scheme but cannot prove their immigration status. This will tell them to take urgent action to establish their lawful status by applying to the scheme.

The Home Office has insisted it will give people every chance to apply to the scheme, but if they continue to fail to apply, the department has confirmed they may be liable for enforcement action and will not be eligible for work, benefits or access to services like healthcare.

– What happens next?

According to campaigners, there are still ongoing concerns over exactly how many people are eligible to apply but have not – and particular worries about how vulnerable people, such as children in care, could be affected.

In light of the Windrush scandal and the Home Office’s hostile environment policy, questions also remain over how many people will feel comfortable making a late application to re-establish their legal immigration status to remain in the UK.

Those who have been granted pre-settled status will have to renew their application after a period of time and there are fears that at that point they could face difficulties in maintaining their rights.

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