On 21 January 2019, Theresa May announced that the £65 fee for EU citizens to apply for ‘settled’ or ‘pre-settled’ status is to be scrapped. There are an estimated three million EU citizens currently living in the UK and, following the end of free movement, they will no longer have the automatic right to live and work in the UK. The Government has decided to ‘waive the application fee so there is no financial barrier for any EU nationals who want to stay’.
The scheme will open fully on 30 March 2019 and it was originally going to be at a cost of £65.00 for adults and £32.50 for under 16s. The deadline for applying is 30 June 2021 so there is still plenty of time.
Here, our Employment team provides answers to the most frequently asked questions about the EU Settlement Scheme:
What are the requirements for settled and pre-settled status?
In order to fall within the scope of the EU Settlement Scheme, applicants will need to be:
- a national of one of the 27 EU countries; or
- the relevant family member of an EU 27 national.
Applicants will also need to meet residency requirements and suitability requirements (explained below).
What does settled status mean?
If you are an EU citizen living in the UK, you and your family can apply for settled status through the EU Settlement Scheme if you have been living in the UK for a continuous period of five years by 30 June 2021. This is referred to as ‘continuous residence’. You will have five years’ continuous residence as long as you have been in the UK for at least six months in any 12 month period for five years in a row. The exceptions to this rule are:
- A period of 12 months living outside the UK for an ‘important reason’, for example, childbirth, study, vocational training, serious illness; or
- Compulsory military service of any length of time.
What rights do I get with settled status?
If you are successful in obtaining settled status, you can stay in the UK for as long as you want and you only need to apply to the scheme once. You can also apply for British citizenship, use the NHS, enrol in education, access public funds - such as pensions and benefits - and travel in and out of the UK.
What does pre-settled status mean?
If you do not have the required five years continuous residence as outlined above, you can apply for pre-settled status. Pre-settled status allows you to remain in the UK for a period of five years from the date you are given pre-settled status. Upon the expiry of that five year period, you will be required to apply for settled status should you wish to remain in the UK for longer. You do not have to wait until the end of the five-year period, however, and can apply for settled status as soon as you have reached five years' continuous residence.
What rights do I get with ‘pre-settled’ status?
You can spend up to two years in a row outside of the UK and still retain your pre-settled status. With your pre-settled status you will have all the same rights as those with settled status including access to the NHS, the ability to enrol in education, access to public funds and unrestricted travel in and out of the UK.
What is the pilot scheme and what if I have already paid the fee?
In late August 2018, the Government opened the EU Settlement Scheme pilot for a number of NHS Trusts and universities. The purpose of the pilot was to test the functionality of the application process in a live environment. Some of the key findings from the pilot scheme were:
- 100% of applicants successfully proved their identity;
- The average time taken to receive a decision was less than nine calendar days;
- The fastest application was made in eight minutes and just under 50% of applications took less than 20 minutes.
If you have registered under the pilot scheme and paid the fee, this will be refunded back to you.
What if I am applying as a family member of an EU citizen?
Your family member will receive an application number once they submit their application. You can use this number to link your application to theirs and they will be considered together. The Government has advised that this will make the application process faster and easier so it may be better that you wait until your relative has applied before you submit your own application.
How will the application process work?
The application process will be an online process and support will be available over the telephone or in person. This means that you could submit your application via your smartphone. When you come to applying, the following are examples of information you will need:
- Proof of your identity (either a valid passport, biometric residence card or biometric residence permit). Certain smartphones will allow you to scan your documents.
- Proof of your residence in the UK. Your national insurance should be sufficient to allow automated checks to be undertaken by HMRC. You will be advised during the application process if further proof is required.
What happens after the application process?
If you are successful, you will receive online confirmation of your settled or pre-settled status. You will not usually receive a hard copy document but you will get access to the Home Office online service which will allow you to view and prove your status.
If your application is not successful, you can apply for this to be reviewed. You can also re-apply as many times as you want before 30 June 2021.
What if I already have an immigration application in process?
If you make an application through the EU Settlement Scheme, this will usually cancel any other immigration application you have currently in process.
Who does not need to apply?
If you already have indefinite leave to enter or remain in the UK, or if you are an Irish citizen, you will not need to make an application through the settlement scheme.
For more information about any of the above or for specific advice, please call 0141 303 1100 and ask to speak to a member of our specialist employment team.
In spring 2019, we will be running employment law seminars in Glasgow, Edinburgh and Dundee. Details of these free-to-attend seminars will be available on our website shortly.
This article was co-written by Laura Roddy.