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10 December 2020

EU Settlement Scheme applications for children in care and care leavers

4 mins

As we approach 31 December 2020, when the transition period in place since the UK left the EU ends, it seems likely that many children in care and care leavers have not yet applied to the EU Settlement Scheme. This is relevant for children in care and care leavers who are either EEA nationals or family members of EEA nationals who need to make applications to ensure they are able to continue to live in the UK lawfully after 30 June 2021. No one knows how many children in care and care leavers might be eligible to apply although the Home Office itself estimated it could be around 5,000 looked after children and a further 4,000 care leavers even before the scheme opened in March 2019 and these figures did not take into account third country national family members of EEA nationals.  What does seem pretty clear is that not all those who are eligible have made their applications.

It is not too late.  Applications can be made up to 30 June 2021 for any EEA national or a family member of an EEA national residing in the UK on 31 December 2020.  However, applications are taking some time to be considered and this is particularly the case for applications which are not straightforward.  Cases for those in the care system may often be complex, for example where it is difficult to prove the family relationship with the EEA national (as may often be the case for children in care who are not necessarily in contact with their families) or where an applicant does not have any documents.  For children and young people with applications still pending on 30 June 2021 it may become difficult to establish eligibility for further and higher education or for benefits. 

Where applicants have lived in the UK for five years they should be granted settled status (indefinite leave to remain).  Where they have under five years residence they should be granted pre-settled status (limited leave to remain) for five years and then be able to apply for settled status once they have been here for five years.

Where applicants do not have any ID documents it is difficult to make applications under the EU Settlement Scheme but it can be done and must be done.  Sometimes it is not possible to obtain passports for looked after children and care leavers where parents are either not around or not willing to cooperate in the documentation process.  As these applications take longer it is key to get them made soon.  Likewise where evidence of family relationships is not available whilst it is still possible to apply the case is more complicated.  In both these scenarios it will be necessary to apply on a paper form obtained from the Home Office and paper applications are taking a long time to be considered at present.  If a valid passport or ID card cannot be produced or the required evidence of the identity and nationality of the EEA family member then the Home Office may accept alternative evidence where the required documentation cannot be produced due to circumstances beyond the applicant’s control or due to compelling practical or compassionate reasons. Each case is looked at on its individual merits and it will be important to put together as much alternative evidence as possible and to explain the reasons for not providing the required documentation.  It might be wise to obtain legal assistance with complex applications.

The headline is to get all applications under the EU Settlement Scheme made as soon as practicable, especially any which are likely to be tricky evidentially.

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