Applying to the EU Settlement Scheme

At the moment, we are obviously in a time of extreme uncertainty for EU citizens living and working in the UK. Many of my clients are employers of EU citizens and they are approaching me to find out the options both from the perspective of an employer anxious not to lose staff, but also on behalf of their employees who are worried about their future.

Obviously we are in a time of flux, so things can change. However, there are options available for EU citizens in the UK and there are steps they can take at the present time which should go some way to protecting their position here.

In March this year the EU Settlement Scheme opened. This Scheme enables EU citizens to apply for either settled or pre-settled status. The application can be done on-line and it is free to do so.

Settled Status is available for citizens who have lived in the UK for a continuous 5 year period  and started living in the UK by 31 December 2020, OR and given our new Prime Minister’s stance on this, this is quite a significant OR by the date the UK leaves the EU without a deal. For the period of 5 years to be classed as continuous the applicant needs to have spent at least 6 months of each year in the UK. There are a few exceptions whereby a longer absence will be allowed, such a childbirth, serious illness and study. If someone has had a longer period of absence then we would suggest they seek legal advice before they apply to better understand their options.  Those who get settled status can then stay in the UK as long as they like and can apply for citizenship.

Pre-settled status is for those who do not have 5 years’ continuous residence by the time they apply.  Again they must have started living in the UK by either 31 December 2020, or by the date we leave the EU, if we do so without a deal. A person with pre-settled status can stay in the UK for a further 5 years from the date they get their pre-settled status. They can then apply to have it changed to settled status once they have their 5 years’ continuous residence.

When making the application it will not be for the applicant to decide whether they are applying for pre-settled or settled status, the status given will depend on how long they have been living in the UK on the date of the application.

If an application is successful the applicant will be able to: work in the UK, use the NHS, enrol in education or continue studying, access public funds such as benefits and pensions and travel in and out of the UK.

If someone obtains settled status they can spend up to 5 years in a row outside the UK without losing their status. Those with pre-settled status can spend up to 2 years in a row outside the UK without losing their pre-settled status. However, they will need to maintain their continuous residence if they want to apply for settled status.

In order to make the application the applicant will need proof of their identity and proof of residence in the UK. The latter of these is where evidence of employment is likely to be significant.  If an applicant has been working in the UK, then all they will need to do is provide their National Insurance number and an automated check should confirm the duration of stay. If an applicant has not been working in the UK, it could be difficult for them to provide the appropriate evidence given that they are likely to have entered the country without any stamps in their passports or other evidence proving date of entry or duration of stay.

Family members can also join the EU migrant worker in the UK, but in general should do so before 31 December 2020. If they want to come after that date, then the options available will depend on whether we leave the EU with or without a deal.

With a deal, the person already in the UK will be able to bring their family members over if their relationship began before 31 December 2020 and they are still in a relationship when the family member applies.

Without a deal then the deadline for close family members coming over is 29 March 2022, but the conditions remain the same, i.e. still in a relationship and were so before 31 December 2020.

Given the current situation we are in with regards to leaving the EU, I would strongly advise my clients who employ EU migrants to disseminate this information to their staff. Applying for settled or pre-settled status will protect the applicant’s rights in the UK but should in no way prohibit them from returning to their country of origin in the future should they choose to do so.

These are uncertain times and getting pre-settled or settled status would be reassuring for employer and employee alike.

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