27th September 2018
The Government proposes to introduce a new 'settled status’ for the 3.8million EU nationals already living in the UK and those arriving before 31 December 2020 under new legislation which would allow them to stay in the country after Brexit.
The details of the EU Settlement Scheme – which is not dependent on a wider withdrawal agreement between the UK and the EU - were announced on 21 June 2018. On 28 August 2018, a new Appendix EU was inserted into the immigration rules, bringing into effect the EU settlement scheme on a test phase basis.
During this test phase, some NHS workers and university staff and students in Liverpool have been invited to apply for the new settled status using the new scheme. It is expected that the new scheme will be rolled out in stages towards the end of 2018 before being fully open by March 2019. There is speculation that applications will be dealt with in alphabetical order, although the Home Office has yet to confirm this.
With Brexit now in motion, EU nationals, their family members in the UK and/or those arriving before 31 December 2020 need to begin considering what steps they should take to protect their right to live in the UK. Equally, employers should consider how the introduction of the new immigration rules will impact their business and how they can assist their employees. EU nationals who arrive in the UK after 31 December 2020 will have to apply under different and less favourable immigration rules not yet announced.
The EU Settlement Scheme - procedure and requirements
To obtain settled status EU nationals will need to have lived continuously in the UK for five years. Generally speaking, the applicant must not have been absent from the UK for more than six months in any 12-month period.
There is no requirement under the EU Settlement Scheme for applicants to meet the requirements of the current free movement rules, such as any requirement to have comprehensive sickness insurance or to have exercised specific treaty rights (e.g. the right to work) under EU law. Stay-at-home parents, retired couples and students are all eligible.
Those who have lived in the UK for less than five years will be able to apply for a ‘pre-settled status’. Once they reach the threshold of five years they can then apply for a ‘settled status’.
The application will be online. In order to apply under the scheme the applicant will need to provide their identity, show that they have lived in the UK and confirm they have no serious criminal convictions.
A useful feature of the online application is that it will, on an automated basis, check the data held by HM Revenue & Customs and, possibly in due course, the Department for Work and Pensions. This means that for many applicants the proof of their continuous residence in the UK will be populated automatically and there may be no requirement to send additional documents evidencing residence to the Home Office. If, however, there are gaps in the records held by the Government, or if for any other reason the Home Office requires proof of residence, the documents requested of the applicant may include P60s, bank statements and utility bills.
The application will cost £65 per applicant, and £32 for a child under the age of 16. The deadline for applications will be 30 June 2021 for those resident in the UK by 31 December 2020.
Evidence of ‘settled status’ or ‘pre-settled status’ will be granted in digital form to EU nationals. Notably, physical documents evidencing status will not be issued.
UPDATE 23 OCTOBER 2018
The Government has now announced the second and scaled-up test phase for the EU Settlement Scheme, which allows EU nationals and their family members living in the UK before 31 December 2010 to obtain an immigration status.
Staff members of higher education, health and social sectors across the UK have been included in this second phase, commencing from 1 November 2018.
The settlement scheme is expected to be fully open by March 2019.