On 9 December 2021, the Home Office published new guidance to its EU Settlement Scheme caseworkers, limiting the circumstances in which there will be ‘reasonable grounds’ for making a late application for settled or pre-settled status.
Following a challenge by Here For Good to the legality of the new guidance, we are pleased to say that the Home Office has confirmed that they will amend it, enabling a swathe of vulnerable applicants to have their right to live and work in the UK recognised. The challenge was drafted on behalf of Here for Good by Elisabeth Attwood, solicitor in our Immigration team and Here For Good co-odinator.
What was the new guidance?
As we previously explained here, although the deadline for submitting applications to the EU Settlement Scheme was 30 June 2021, the scheme remains open indefinitely for applications from those who have ‘reasonable grounds’ for applying late. What constitutes reasonable grounds is broadly drafted to encompass applicants who were not aware of the scheme or who have faced difficulties accessing it through no fault of their own. Until v.15 of the EU Settlement Scheme Caseworker Guidance was published on 9 December 2021, there was no restriction on fresh applications being made after the 30 June 2020 deadline, following a previous application having been refused, as long as the applicant could show that they had ‘reasonable grounds’ for their new application not having been submitted before the deadline.
The guidance dated 9 December 2021 changed all this, stating that in no circumstances could a new application meet the reasonable grounds criteria if the applicant had previously submitted an in-time application for settled or pre-settled status.
Who did this guidance affect?
Here for Good continues to provide advice and support to vulnerable European citizens who have not yet been able to obtain recognition of their right to live and work in the UK. Among the most vulnerable are those who have previously submitted applications, either without support or with the help of others who do not properly understand how the application process works. In many cases, these applicants have received refusals of their EUSS applications, against which they have not had the financial means or understanding to appeal. In Here for Good’s experience, these applicants were told in their refusal letters that, in any event, they did not need to follow a formal appeal or administrative review process – they could make new applications to the Scheme.
Under the new guidance, all these vulnerable applicants would have had their fresh applications refused without their personal circumstances, or their eligibility, being considered by the Home Office, with the consequence that they may have faced removal from the UK.
What happens now?
We are awaiting publication of the new redrafted version of the ‘reasonable grounds’ guidance by the Home Office. In the meantime, if a European national has previously had an application for settled or pre-settled status refused, and has evidence to show that they are, in fact, eligible under the EUSS, they can submit a new late application, provided that they can show they have ‘reasonable grounds’ to do so.