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09th November 2018

Brexit - Update on citizens’ rights: EU Settlement Scheme

Earlier this year we reported on the agreement that had been reached between the EU and the UK during the negotiations on Brexit in respect of EU Citizens’ rights.
The agreement reached was that EU Citizens living in the UK would need to apply to the EU Settlement Scheme for either “Settled Status” or “Pre-Settled Status” if they wish to continue living and working in the UK after 31 December 2020. For further detail please see our earlier article here.

There are of course still a number of areas upon which the UK and the EU have not agreed, and so there is a risk of their being “no deal” in respect of the UK’s exit from the EU. Further, even if the parties are able to reach agreement on all of the key issues, the final terms of any agreement would be subject to the terms of the Withdrawal Agreement in any event.

However, it is expected that even if there is “no deal” in respect of the UK’s exit from the EU, the key aspects of Government’s proposal in respect of the EU Settlement Scheme would still go ahead.

Under the Settlement Scheme applicants will need to prove their identity, their continuous residence and provide details of any criminal convictions. Those who already have a permanent residence or have indefinite leave to remain will be able to apply for settled status free of charge, otherwise the fees are £65 for those over the age of 16, and £32.50 for those under 16.

The Scheme is due to open fully by March 2019 and assuming that the transitional period takes place, the deadline for applying will be 30 June 2021.

A pilot of the application process for the EU Settlement Scheme was launched at the end of August 2018 and EU members of staff and students from 12 NHS Trusts and 3 universities in the North West were invited to make genuine applications for “settled status”. The purpose of the trial was to test the application process and enable the Home Office to make any necessary improvements in advance of rolling out the scheme more widely. The Home Office has reportedly received positive feedback, however, only 650 EU Citizens applied and so this is not particularly representative of the number of applications that the Home Office is likely to receive when the scheme is rolled out fully.

The second phase of the pilot has now been announced and will include staff in the higher education, health and social care sectors. From 1 November 2018 a further 3 NHS Trusts in Greater Manchester will be able to participate and from 29 November 2018 the Scheme will be opened up to all NHS Trusts and NHS Foundation Trusts in England as well as to organisations such as Public Health England, the General Medical Council, Nursing and Midwifery Council and the General Optical Council.

The second phase will further test the online application process, including the systems that allow applicants to prove their identity and the validity of their ID documents remotely. At this stage, an application can only be filed using the Home Office ‘app’ on an android phone. This limit on the accessibility of the application process has been criticised and so it is expected that the ways in which applicants will be able to make applications will be widened.

Whilst the application process for the scheme is currently only available to a limited number of employees at this stage, employers should ensure that they keep up to date with the progress of this scheme and provide information and support to their employees that are likely to be affected. The Home Office has published a toolkit to assist employers in supporting their EU workers and their families, the details of which can be found here.

For more information please contact Gemma Hill on 01604 463309 or click here to email Gemma.
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