A huge volume of water has passed under the bridge since the UK's EU in-out referendum in 2016. In fact, for much of the time, it felt like we were all riding on white water rapids. Perhaps the biggest event that has happened since is that the UK has now left the EU. To most of us, it hardly seems like much has changed, emboldening those who 'knew' that leaving the political union was economically inconsequential. However, the reason it feels as though nothing has changed is that the UK has an extension agreement with the EU which is allowing us to trade and travel on the same terms. The true test will come on 1st January 2021 when the extension period ends and we will all see the impacts for the UK and the EU. While this is creating uncertainty for everyone, for EU citizens currently in the UK wishing to remain, this worry is magnified. It is for this reason that understanding your options as an EU citizen in the UK is paramount. In this article, we will explain the EU Settlement Scheme, and in particular, what is meant by 'Pre-Settled Status' and the benefits this offers in terms of long-term security for you and your family.
The EU Settlement Scheme (EUSS) was introduced by the UK Government in 2019 as a way of allowing citizens from the EU, EEA, and Switzerland to remain in the UK at the end of the current transition period. Anyone who is eligible to remain in the UK under the scheme is not automatically registered and they need to apply individually by 30th June 2021.
Those applying through this scheme will (if they are eligible) receive either Pre-Settled Status or Settled Status. Pre-Settled Status is awarded to applicants who have been in the UK continuously for less than five years. Settled Status is given to those who have been in the UK continuously for five or more years, and hence already meet the criteria for permanent residence.
While the scheme is open for applications until 30th June 2021, this is only for EU/EEA/Swiss citizens who are living in the UK as of 31st December 2020. In order to qualify for full Settled Status, applicants must have spent five years in a row in the UK, the Channel Islands or the Isle of Man for at least six months in any 12-month period. The six-month absence may be made up of one or multiple trips outside of the UK.
If you do not meet the criteria for full Settled Status, you will typically be given Pre-Settled Status. Under this Status, you can remain in the UK and once you have reached the five-year qualification period, you will be able to apply for Settled Status. If you are currently close to reaching the five-year period in the UK and will do so before the end of 2020, you can delay submitting your EUSS application to avoid having to apply twice.
But beware; one of the EUSS absence rules states that if you are imprisoned, deported/excluded/or removed from the UK, or outside of the UK for more than six months in one of the five years, then the time you have acquired may be reset, meaning you have to start again. If this does apply and you return to the UK on or after 1st January 2021, your right to secure Pre-Settled or Settled Status may be lost.
The main difference is the Pre-Settled Status provides limited leave to remain for five years, whereas Settled Status is indefinite. Those with Pre-Settled Status have the right to live, work, and seek healthcare treatment from the NHS, but not to apply for benefits (e.g. universal credit) as they do not have the right to reside.
In recent months, there has been widespread concern that people who are eligible for the Settled Status are being given Pre-Settled Status. It is unclear whether this is due to an error on behalf of Home Office case officers, or an incorrect understanding of the rules by applicants. Thankfully, under the Immigration (Citizens' Rights Appeals) (EU Exit) Regulations 2020, those who believe they have wrongly been given Pre-Settled Status will have a right of appeal. The right of appeal guidance states, Anyone who makes a valid application to the EUSS on or after 11 pm on the 31st January 2020 will have a right of appeal where they are refused or where they are granted pre-settled status and believe they qualify for settled status.
If you are concerned that you have wrongly been awarded Pre-Settled Status by the Home Office, it is recommended that you engage the services of immigration Solicitors who can double-check the amount of time you have accrued in the UK, and where this is five years or more, they will appeal to have your decision changed to Settled Status.
It is true that Pre-Settled Status is not as secure a full Settled Status, but it is more secure than no status at all. And once you have Pre-Settled Status, you will later be able to apply for Settled Status. Anyone from the EU/EEA who has not yet applied for any reason should apply as soon as possible. The EUSS scheme is free and relatively quick and easy to apply for. By applying for and securing Pre or Settled Status, you will be able to relax in the knowledge that you have done all you can to protect the residence rights of you and your family.
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