On 21 June 2018 Immigration Minister Caroline Noakes announced that EU citizens will be able to apply for settled status in 3 easy steps for less than the price of a passport.
Ms. Noakes said:
“EU citizens make a huge contribution to our economy and to our society. They are our friends, family and colleagues and we want them to stay.
This is an important step which will make it easy for EU citizens to get the status they need to continue working and living here.
We are demonstrating real progress and I look forward to hearing more detail on how the EU will make reciprocal arrangements for UK nationals living in the EU.
The new online application system will be accessible through phones, tablets, laptops and computers. The Government will provide support for the vulnerable and those without access to a computer, and continues to work with EU citizens’ representatives and embassies to ensure the system works for everyone”.
The settlement scheme will open in a phased way from later this year and will be fully operational by 30 March 2019.
Applicants will be able to apply online and the system will be accessible through phones (android), tablets and computers.
The Minister sated that those EU nationals applying under the new scheme will have three criteria to satisfy in order to be granted “settled status”. They will need to prove (1) their identity, (2) provide evidence that they live in the UK and (3) make a declaration that they do not have any serious criminal convictions.
The proposed fee for the settlement scheme will be £65 for adults, which is the same as the current EEA permanent resident application fee, and £32.50 for a child under 16 years of age.
The Home Office will check the employment and benefit records held by the government which will mean that, for many, their proof of residence will be automatic.
For those EU migrants who have not yet lived in the UK for five years, they will be granted pre-settled status and be able to apply for settled status once they reach the five-year point. From April 2019, this second application will be free of charge.
The draft Immigration Rules that provide details of the scheme deliver on the citizens’ rights agreement with the EU reached in March this year, which also guarantees the rights of UK nationals living in the EU.
The deadline for applications will be 30 June 2021.
Healys LLP’s Comments
The first point to make is that it is inconceivable, despite the assurances of the “three easy steps” that the Home Office will be able to process up to 3 million applications in the next two years. We say this having had first-hand experience of the bureaucracy and incompetence of the Home Office processing system.
Secondly, the Home Office has proposed the settled status scheme for EU nationals living in the UK on the assumption that there will be a two-year transitional agreement with the EU, hence the deadline of 30 June 2021.
The EU Brexit team categorically stated yesterday that the two year transition period will only be implemented if an overall withdrawal agreement is reached between the United Kingdom and the EU. If no deal is reached, can EU nationals still rely on the settled status scheme, and if so, will the deadline remain the same?
If an individual applies on 29 June 2021 under the pre-settled status scheme, will they still be entitled to settled status up to 30 June 2026? It is doubtful that the Home Office has made contingency plans for regularising the immigration status of EU nationals living in the UK in the event of a no deal scenario.
Our advice for those EU nationals that have been residing in the UK for five years as qualified persons (working as employed or self-employed, as a student or as a self-sufficient person) to immediately apply for EEA permanent residence. Any attempt by the government to force such individuals to then apply for settled status would be unlawful.
Furthermore, those EU nationals who may already have automatically acquired permanent residence, having lived in the UK for five years and who have lived in the UK for a further 12 months or more, will be entitled to apply for a British passport immediately after their EEA permanent residence document has been issued. These individuals will therefore not need to apply under the settled status scheme.
EEA nationals should therefore not wait for the implementation of the ill-prepared settled status scheme, proposed as it is on assumptions that may not prove to be correct. Instead, they should take matters into their own hands and rely on the laws that are already in place today and protected by the European Court of Justice.