The Government has confirmed that regardless of whether there is a deal, once we leave the EU, EEA and Swiss nationals living in the UK by 29 March 2019 will be allowed to stay, but will be required to make an application under the EU settled status scheme.
The scheme will go fully live after Brexit. In the meantime there is currently the option to apply as part of a pilot phase. The pilot is open to EU nationals with a chipped passport and to their non-EEA family members who hold a biometric residence permit. Citizens of Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway or Switzerland are not eligible to apply during this phase.
To apply under the pilot scheme, migrants are required to use an app which is currently available only on Android phones. They also need to have access to a mobile phone number and an email address which are used to receive various access codes required to proceed with an application.
The app is used to check the applicant’s identity – the first step is to scan the passport and then use the app to read the chip. This is followed by scanning the applicant’s face. If for some reason the app fails to read the chip in the passport, the migrant is required to post the passport to the Home Office,
The migrant is then asked to provide their National Insurance number. A check is carried out with HMRC and DWP, and the migrant is advised whether they are expected to be eligible for settled status (at least five years UK residence) or pre-settled status. They can then decide whether or not to proceed. If they are told they are only eligible for pre-settled status, there is an opportunity to disagree and submit further evidence of UK residence to demonstrate five years’ UK residence.
As part of the process the migrant is asked to agree to a criminal record check.
The migrant is then asked to take a photograph of their face, which will be retained and used as part of the digital status granted in due course.
Once the application is submitted, it is a case of waiting for an email with the outcome. Decision times have still not been published, but in our experience if status is granted this is usually confirmed within a few days.
From 30 March 2019
The scheme is expected to launch fully as soon as we leave the EU. It will then open to all EEA nationals, regardless of their ability to use the app. This means applicants may use passports or ID cards to prove their identity. If the app is not used, the ID document will need to be sent to the Home Office, or the migrant can visit one of 13 ID document scanning centres.
The intention is that migrants who need support with the process will be able to access support from an ‘assisted digital tutor’, but it should be noted they will still need to complete the ID phase as noted earlier. The service is limited to support with completion of the online process and does not include immigration advice. Support can be provided by telephone, at designated centres or it may be possible to arrange a home visit.
There is an EU settlement service resolution centre which can provide more information about the scheme.
The Government recently invited charities around the UK to bid for funding to support vulnerable EEA nationals with their applications. However, immigration advice is regulated and concerns were raised that any charities offering advice would need to use properly accredited advisers.
The OISC has now unveiled a new qualification which allows the qualified individual to provide advice on the settled status scheme. They cannot provide wide immigration advice, for example on naturalisation.