It is now just over two years since the 30 June 2021 deadline for EU citizens living in the UK to make applications to the EU Settlement Scheme (EUSS) to protect their right to live and work here.
We have reviewed the recent statistics released by the Home Office about applications to the scheme. If you are an EU citizen, or have an EU family member in the UK, here is what you should know.
Pre-settled to settled status – why now?
For many who applied to the scheme when it opened in August 2018, the time will now be coming when their period of pre-settled status will expire and an application for settled status (indefinite leave to remain in the UK) can and should be made.
Recent research shows that 3,500 people with pre-settled status are refused welfare benefits every month. For many affected by the cost-of-living crisis and in need of additional support, a grant of settled status will have life-changing consequences as the same complications which face benefit applicants holding pre-settled status do not apply to those with indefinite leave to remain.
Late applications – late is not too late
Since June 2021, the Home Office has continued to accept late applications to the scheme from those who have shown that they have ‘reasonable grounds’ [SEE PREVIOUS BLOG] for not having applied sooner. Recent figures released by the Home Office show that thousands of EU citizens have continued to apply to the scheme every month, with more than 60,000 late applications submitted between January and March of this year alone.
There are many reasons why EU nationals could or did not apply for the EU Settlement Scheme before the deadline, and the government recognises this. If you have not yet applied to the scheme, we would recommend taking our specialist advice and, if the reasonable grounds to make a late application apply to you, that you make an application to protect your rights as soon as you can.
Joining family members – take care!
In addition to those who make applications to the EUSS based on their own residence in the UK, the EU Settlement Scheme continues to be open to certain EU and non-EEA family members of EU citizens who want to join their close relatives in the UK.
EU national family members can, in some circumstances, apply for pre-settled status from outside the UK and then enter the UK to join their close family members once their status has been granted. They will then have limited leave to remain for five years. If they continue to meet the eligibility requirements at the end of the five year period, they can apply for settled status (indefinite leave to remain).
Non-EEA nationals need to apply for a family permit to travel to the UK and they can then, within 90 days of their arrival, make an application for pre-settled status. However, the figures released by the Home Office show a worryingly high refusal rate for family permit applications. Only 40% of applications are currently successful. These applications may appear straightforward, but there are many pitfalls (as is clear from the refusal rate). We would strongly recommend that family members take legal advice before submitting an application to ensure the best chance of success.
In summary, despite years now having passed since Brexit, the EU Settlement Scheme is here to stay for the foreseeable future. For EU nationals and their family members considering their immigration options, the scheme is unusual as there is still no Home Office fee to apply. However, as time goes on, and refusal rates increase, it is more and more important to give really careful consideration to applications.
If you need help, our EU Settlement Scheme specialists have a great deal of experience with late applications, family applications and appeals against refusals and we would be happy to advise you. Get in touch with a member of the team here.