Settling down in the UK – A quick guide to the EU settlement scheme

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Although the ins and outs (if you excuse the pun) of Brexit are still rumbling away in the corridors of power, there are a least a few areas where things are clear and you can take some practical steps. One of these is the EU settlement scheme which opened for applications in March 2019. The purpose of the scheme is to define who can live and work in the UK after the June 2021 deadline. Specifically, it refers to people originally from the European Union, The EEA (European Economic Area, which includes Iceland, Lichtenstein and Norway) and Switzerland. Since so much of the UK workforce consists of workers from these areas, it is important that anyone wishing to stay fills in the appropriate details as soon as possible. The final deadline for anyone, and their family members, from the above groups to apply for settlement is the 20th of June 2021.

Once the settlement scheme application is complete and approved, the applicant will be able to stay in the UK to work or study. They will also be able to use the NHS, claim the State Pension and rent a home.

What do you need to apply?

At heart, the process is remarkably simple. There are three criteria to be met, and these are to show that the applicant:

  • Can prove their identity
  • Can show that they actually live in the UK
  • Has declared any criminal convictions

Usually, people will be able to apply online. Evidence of residence and identity can be shown through some fairly common documents that anyone eligible should have easy access to. These include passports, identity cards, permit or biometric residence cards, which can usually be scanned with a mobile phone. Other information required will depend on the applicant, but all documents are easily accessible, and the process should be fairly quick and painless. Bank statements, utility bills, letters from a GP and so on are all potentially suitable documents for proof. In theory, once these easily demonstrated steps have been met, the settlement status should be granted, and the applicant can continue to live and work in the UK.

Is that all there is to it?

Well, not quite. There is another factor surrounding the amount of time already spent in the UK. The breakpoint is five years of residence. If an applicant has been living in the UK for five years or more, they can apply for settled status. If an applicant does not have proof of five years of residence in the UK, they will likely still be granted pre-settled status and be allowed to stay and work here if they meet the criteria of proof. After five years, they can then apply for settled status or potentially citizenship.

Around 4 million people have already applied, and some 1500 Home Office staff are working on the scheme to make the process smooth and as fast as possible. Refusals are low, and as of September 2020, only just under 17,000 people have been refused. Mostly these were due to eligibility issues.

Is there help available?

Very much so. Anyone applying should probably look to getting assistance if possible. Free advice and guidance is available from the Citizens Advice, or one of the 300 assisted digital location across the UK where people are on hand to help, plus many other sources. As the application is digital, in the vast majority of cases, it should not present any real problems for the applicant. That said there is help and guidance on the application site, and the government produces a range of supporting materials. Children will also need to be included in the application process as will any family members that are hoping to enter the UK prior to a forthcoming deadline in 2021. Again, it is a good idea to seek advice about this.

Whether the applicant is granted pre-settled or settled status, the end result is that they, and usually their close family, will be entitled to live and work here in the UK. The important thing is to ensure that applications go in as soon as possible. We all know how easy it is for time to slip by, and although the process doesn’t close for some months, there seems no need to delay applying.

Government help and advice

Citizens advice help page