EU Settlement Scheme

This briefing provides an overview of the EU Settlement Scheme (EUSS). The scheme has been introduced to allow EU, EEA and Swiss nationals, and their close family members, to apply to remain in the UK following its departure from the European Union.

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The EU Settlement Scheme (EUSS) is now open for all applications. Following private and public test phases, the scheme opened for the vast majority of applications on 30th March 2019.[1] Following criticism, the Government waived the original £65 application fee for the full rollout of the scheme.

Deal vs. No-deal

Importantly, the Government have confirmed the scheme will continue to operate in the event of a no-deal Brexit, and the qualifying conditions will remain the same. Nonetheless, the deadlines to apply to the scheme do vary according to whether there is a deal or no-deal.

If the UK leaves the EU under the Withdrawal Agreement, applicants must have been living in the UK prior to the end of the implementation period (currently 31st December 2020), and the deadline for applications will be 30th June 2021.[2] However, if there is no-deal, applicants must have been living in the UK prior to exit day (currently 31st October 2019) and the application deadline will be 31st December 2020.[3] Different deadlines are in place for various categories of non-EEA family members in a deal and no-deal scenario.

If the Withdrawal Agreement is not agreed by the UK then there will be no international law obligations to implement the EUSS. The scheme will be implemented in UK domestic law which is liable to change.

Why does the EUSS exist?

In most cases, EU, EEA and Swiss nationals, their family members, and others currently residing in the UK based on rights derived from EU law will no longer have a legal right to reside in the UK once it leaves the European Union. The EUSS has been established to grant eligible applicants an immigration status allowing them to remain in the UK following its departure from the EU.

The scheme should grant applicants with settled or pre-settled status. In accordance with Article 15 of the Withdrawal Agreement, EU nationals who have 5 years continuous residence in the UK ‘shall have the right to reside permanently’. This right is to be granted in the form of settled status.

Pre-settled status allows the holder to remain in the UK for a further 5 years from the date they were granted pre-settled status. This provides the necessary time for applicants to become eligible for settled status. Holders of pre-settled status can then switch to settled status by submitting another application if they meet the eligibility requirements.

If granted settled or pre-settled status, applicants will be able to continue living and working in the UK after it leaves the EU on broadly the same terms as they do now.[4]

There has been some criticism of the EUSS for forcing people to make an application to remain in the UK. Some have instead argued the scheme should be declaratory, and that the evidential requirement should be removed.

EUSS conditions

The EUSS has broadly been established in line with the provisions set out in the Withdrawal Agreement but has more favourable conditions than stipulated in some areas.

The UK has similar agreements with EEA countries and Switzerland in the form of the UK-EEA Separation Agreement and the Swiss Citizens’ Rights Agreement. Both agreements largely mirror the provisions set out in the Withdrawal Agreement in relation to residency. As such, the EUSS applies to EU, EEA and Swiss nationals if a deal is agreed, and the Government have confirmed the qualifying conditions will remain the same in the event of a no-deal.

Application process

The application checks three basic principles; identity, UK residency and criminality. The process is primarily online and has been designed to be streamlined compared to other immigration applications. This has broadly been welcomed, and customer feedback from the test phases of the scheme was typically positive. However, the online nature of the process, and the resulting digital status has raised some concerns, particularly in relation to elderly and vulnerable people who may face digital exclusion. The Government have put provisions in place to provide support to applicants, but as a report by think tank British Future concluded “about 30% of EU citizens may struggle with the new system and risk being left out” it is unclear if the provisions will be sufficient.

source: House of Commons Library

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