To mark the public launch of the EU Settlement Scheme and the Mayor of London’s EU Londoners Hub, our team of lawyers spent four days providing free immigration advice to Europeans across the capital as part of the Mayor’s #Londonisopen campaign
Working with Here for Good, the Mayor of London and Waterloo Action Centre, we spoke to hundreds of Londoners about their rights post-Brexit and the process of applying under the EU Settlement Scheme.
The four days provided a valuable snapshot of how the public have understood the EU Settlement Scheme and laid bare the sheer scale of the challenge facing the Home Office. What was clear was that there was a significant amount of confusion about the scheme: how people make an application, what they need to apply, and when they need to apply by. Here are three of the most common topics that came up:
Residence, Residence, Residence
Many of those that we spoke to were not aware that the base requirement to make an ‘in-country’ application under the EU Settlement Scheme is residence in the United Kingdom, the Channel Islands and the Isle of Man. Especially worrying was the misinformation that has been circulating about other conditions. In particular, on a few occasions people were under the impression that they had to be earning at least £30,000 to make an application under the scheme (a rumour that seems based on a misreading of the Immigration White Paper).
Providing that an applicant meets the suitability requirements (which relates to their criminal and immigration records), they simply have to be resident in the United Kingdom to be eligible for ‘settled’ or ‘pre-settled’ status. The Home Office conducts automatic checks with HM Revenue and Customs and the Department of Work and Pensions during the application process and, in a large number of cases, this will confirm an applicant’s residence.
This becomes a bit less straightforward for those whose residence has been sporadic or disrupted in any way, or for those who previously lived in the United Kingdom, left and now want to return. If your situation is complex in any way, we would be very happy to advise.
Perhaps highlighting the sense of distrust that has been cultivated through the discourse of the last few years, many were concerned that they were at immediate risk in the event of a no-deal Brexit and/or that the government would renege on the promises already made. In fact, protecting citizens’ rights seems to be one of the few things that Parliamentarians can agree on and it seems very unlikely that any government will change the scheme as it is.
The key date that all EEA nationals and their family members currently in the United Kingdom need to keep in mind, even if we leave with ‘no-deal’, is 31 December 2020. This is the date by which an application under the scheme has to have been made (though if we leave with a deal this may be extended to June 2021).
The cut-off date for family members currently outside the UK is impacted more by a ‘no-deal’ scenario, and also depends on the type of relationship. It is worth seeking advice on your particular circumstances if you are in any doubt.
Method of application
The easiest way to apply under the EU Settlement Scheme is to use the EU Exit Identity Document Checking app (Android only at present, but the Home Office have tentatively announced than an Apple version of the app will be available from the end of 2019) followed by the online form.
The big caveat to this, apart from the exclusion of Apple devices, is that this route is not open to non-EEA nationals who do not have a residence card. Family members who do not hold a residence card will need to submit an online form and then attend a Home Office centre to present their passport and enrol their biometrics.
For those not comfortable with, or who do not have access to, a smart-phone, there are a few alternatives available, though it remains to be seen how well this will help mitigate against people simply being discouraged from making an application under the scheme.
The Home Office do have paper applications available (some applications must be made on a paper form) but currently these are provided upon request and you must call or email the Home Office to obtain one. Additionally, the government’s assisted digital service has been extended to the EU Settlement Scheme and, for those who do not have access to an Android device councils across the country are offering scanning services, although some of them do charge.
If you are at all confused or concerned about your rights post-Brexit and/or making an application under the EU Settlement Scheme we would be very happy to help. For more information about arranging an initial consultation, please contact us.