The Home Office launched public testing of its much publicised EU Settlement Scheme (EUSS) on 21 January 2019. Testing is open to all EU nationals who hold valid passports and family members who hold valid biometric residence cards. It is accessible via the gov.uk website and on Android devices but not currently on iPhones. The EUSS will be fully rolled out on 29 March 2019.
Under the EUSS EU nationals with more than 5 years UK residence will be granted ‘settled status’. Applicants with under 5 years’ residence will receive ‘pre-settled status’.
The application process
There are three key steps:
- Proof of identity: ID is scanned and verified via an Android device app. There are also 13 scanning centres for those without an Android device. Once complete, the process will continue on the gov.uk website.
- ‘Continuous residence’ in the UK: in most cases this will be automatically checked with government departments like HMRC and DWP. If no data is available applicants will need to submit documentation. Evidence will no longer be needed to prove the exercise of European treaty rights during the 5 year residence period. Residence will remain subject to the current limits on absence of up to 6 months in each of the 5 qualifying years.
- Criminal convictions: only serious or multiple offences should affect the success of the application.
Only those who do not meet the eligibility criteria (eg their absence exceeds 6 months in any of the qualifying years or they have serious and/or multiple criminal convictions) should fall for refusal.
Successful applicants will be granted a digital status under the EUSS. No actual document will be issued. The status will be verifiable online by the holder, employers, landlords etc.
Prime Minister Thersa May announced on 21 January that the £65 fee for the EUSS will be scrapped. Those who have already paid will be refunded in full. This concession will be welcomed by employers and EU nationals alike.
Deal or no deal
How will the EUSS be operated if there is "No deal"?
- Deal: the current Brexit deal allows EU nationals and family members who enter the UK during the transition period (to 31 December 2020) to qualify for status under the EUSS so long as they apply by 30 June 2021.
- No deal: in a no-deal only those EU nationals who enter the UK on or before 29 March 2019 are guaranteed rights under the EUSS. They would need to register by 31 December 2020.
Not necessarily. The EUSS should deliver a simple and fast route with no charge which will clearly appeal to most EU nationals and employers. However those who would like to apply for British citizenship should still consider whether to apply under the current permanent residence route. The existing PR route may allow holders to apply for citizenship straight away rather than waiting for a further 12 months after the settled status has been issued under the EUSS.