By Candace Padmore
As the end of freedom of movement looms, the United Kingdom will embark upon an uncertain and unique journey. I am worried because the UK is the first Member State to leave the European Union; it cannot look to any country to observe the procedures used to leave, nor scrutinise the subsequent effects of departure. Despite this, the government has taken a proactive stance to help prepare for this unprecedented event. It has made provisions for EU nationals to preserve their rights to work and remain in the UK via the EU Settlement Scheme (EUSS).
Some local authorities and Citizens Advice Bureaux have already made an impressive commitment to hosting webinars advising EU nationals and their families on the EUSS. However, people have varying degrees of access to social media, and it is worrying to think that some people might not be fully aware of the existence of the scheme.
EU nationals who are already in the UK or plan to travel to the UK (as long as they arrive by 11pm on 31 December 2020) can sign up to the EUSS to continue to have the right to remain in the UK. EEA nationals, as well as Swiss nationals, are encouraged to apply to the EUSS to continue to live and work in the UK after Brexit (this also includes family members of each EU national). Depending on how long one has resided in the UK, one will be entitled to either “settled” or “pre-settled” status. The government has tried to make the process as simple and accessible as possible:
The applicant will need to download an app to commence this process.
The applicant will be required to take photographs of the details page on his or her passport and will also be required to enter his or her mobile number and email address.
After receiving a PIN via an automated message sent to the individual’s phone, the applicant will then be asked to scan the passport’s biometric chip.
Following this, applicants will need to slowly scan their face and will be asked to take a close-up photograph.
The next stage - “Application Type” - can be completed on one’s phone or on either a laptop or tablet. Questions such as if one has ever held another nationality, or whether one has a valid UK Permanent Residence Card will be put to the applicant.
The stage in the application process is entitled “Residence in the UK.” The applicant will need to input his or her current address and any previous names. If one provides details of his or her NI number, all of this information will collectively be used to scan various government databases to determine for what length of time one has remained in the UK.
The applicant must also respond to questions about any previous criminal convictions - it is best and most prudent to be honest.
The system will then ask the applicant to complete a declaration to confirm that all the provided information is true.
After this, the system will inform the applicant about its proposed decision. It could state that the records show that the applicant has been continuously resident in the UK for at least five years; if this is the case, then it will be proposed that the applicant be considered for “settled” status. Alternatively, the system could propose “pre-settled” status for any applicant who has been resident in the UK for less than five years.
If the applicant agrees with the proposed status then he or she can choose to submit the application immediately. If, however, the applicant wants to dispute the proposed status, it can be challenged and the applicant can upload additional documents for consideration. If this happens, the Home Office will respond via an email and will communicate in this fashion until they reach a decision (which could take weeks).
Applicants will not receive a physical document, but they will be able to access their details using the online system.
I encourage people to circulate this information as widely as possible. It might be the case that some EU nationals are under the honest belief that they do not have to sign up to the EU Settlement Scheme. However, even if the EU national has “permanent residence”, they must apply under the scheme.
This must be done by 30 June 2021.