Can I still Apply for the EU Settled Status Scheme?
Since 2020, we have written several articles on the end date for applications to the EU Settlement Scheme (EUSS) of 30th June 2021, explaining why it is so important to apply and the implications of not doing so. We have also written extensively about the risks faced by some of the more vulnerable EU nationals living in the UK who may not be aware of the importance of applying, including children and those in the care system. Now the 30th June has come and gone, we know that over six million applications from EU and EEA nationals and their family members were received by the Home Office, a number which is far in excess of the number expected. Of the over six million applicants, 2.8 million have received full settled status, and 2.3 million received pre-settled status. While the deadline has now come and gone, it is important that EU nationals living in the UK understand that while the scheme is closed to new applications, the scheme itself is still receiving applications. In this article, we will explain what EU nationals in the UK should know about the EU Settlement Scheme after 30th June 2021.
What is the EU Settlement Scheme?
The purpose of the EUSS is to allow EU and EEA nationals living in the UK before the end of 2020 to gain the right of residence. The scheme was put in place as a result of the departure of the UK from the EU and the ending of free movement. Applicants received either pre-settled status if they had been living in the UK for less than five years or full settled status if they had been living in the UK for five years or more. Settled status is equivalent to permanent residence, while pre-settled status enables applicants to remain in the UK for a further five years to meet the residence period to gain full settled status.
Is The EUSS Now Closed for Applications?
No! This may seem rather paradoxical given the many warnings we have issued to EU nationals imploring them to apply. While the 30th June 2021 deadline for the EUSS was set in stone, this only related to those applying for full settled status and those without a valid reason to make a late application. Allow us to explain.
In reality, the EUSS could never close completely for applications on 30th June 2021 for two main reasons. Firstly, 2.3 million EU nationals have been given pre-settled status, which means they have up to five years to accrue enough time in the UK to then apply for full settled status. This means that we will see millions of applications still being received until mid-2026 from those who wish to secure the more permanent settled status.
Secondly, the Home Office has been under enormous pressure to continue to allow applications from those with a valid reason for applying after 30th June 2021. For this reason, it is possible that the EUSS will remain open indefinitely, at least to some degree. The Home Office has published extensive guidance to caseworkers considering late applications, and this specifically states, “In line with the Citizens’ Rights Agreements, there remains scope, indefinitely, for a person eligible for status under the EU Settlement Scheme to make a late application to the scheme where, in light of all the circumstances and reasons, there are reasonable grounds for their failure to meet the deadline applicable to them”.
What Are the Valid Grounds for Late Applications to the EUSS?
While applications are still open under the EUSS, it is important to understand that it will be incumbent on the applicant to prove and satisfy the Home Office that they had a genuine reason for applying late. In practice, this means that the longer the gap between the 30th June 2021 and the application, the more compelling the case will need to be. UKVI states on this matter, “In all cases, the relevant test is whether there are reasonable grounds for the person’s failure to meet the deadline applicable to them under the EU Settlement Scheme. In general, the more time which has elapsed since the deadline applicable to the person under the scheme, the harder it will be for them to satisfy you that, at the date of application, there are reasonable grounds for their failure to meet that deadline”. That said, this does not apply where an applicant can show that an application to the EUSS was not made on their behalf where it should have been; for example, if a parent, guardian, or local authority did not apply for a child for whom they are responsible.
Some of the other possible valid grounds for a late application to the EUSS include:
- Where a parent or guardian applied for themselves and did not realise, they needed to apply separately for their child
- Where an EU parent of a child born in the UK did not realise, they needed to apply within three months of birth
- Due to physical or mental capacity and/or care or support needs
- A serious medical condition or had significant medical treatment – this may include where a person has been incapacitated in hospital with COVID-19
- Victims of modern slavery
- Being in an abusive or controlling/coercive relationship
- Other compelling practical or compassionate reasons, including:
- a lack of permanent accommodation, which meant that they did not have access to a computer or to the documents required to make an application
- complex needs and were not aware of the support available to help them apply
- they were hampered in accessing the support available to help them apply by restrictions associated with the COVID-19 pandemic
If you have not yet applied for pre-settled or settled status in the UK, it is recommended that you speak to an immigration solicitor located in the UK as soon as possible. The risk is that if you do not have valid immigration status, you may be forced to leave the country by the Home Office; this would then jeopardise your chance of making an application under the EUSS. Building a robust case and providing the necessary level of evidence will be key to making a late application.