Now that the UK has officially Brexited the EU, free movement will end on 31 December 2020.
As a result, nearly all EU nationals who want to continue living and working in the UK need to apply for a new visa status, namely “Settled Status”.
The deadline for applying is 30 June 2021.
In broad terms, applicants who would like to apply for Settled Status under the EU Settlement Scheme need to prove their identity, show that they live in the UK, and declare any criminal convictions.
Sounds pretty simple right? However, in its recent blog, the Home Office has set out the impact which Coronavirus has had on the EU Settlement Scheme.
While applications continue to be processed, they anticipate that they will take longer than usual. This is because:
- The postal route for submitting identity evidence and the ID documents scanner locations are currently suspended. They have confirmed that this decision will be kept under constant review and will be reinstated in line with public health guidance. In the meantime, however, individuals can still use the “EU Exit ID Document check app” to complete the identity stage of their application. This mobile phone app will check that the identity document is genuine and will verify that the document belongs to the individual.
- The Settlement Resolution Centre, which processes applications, will no longer be answering inbound telephone calls; although it will continue to respond to email enquiries and will provide a call back function when required.
Individuals don’t need to panic, however, as they still have until 30 June 2021 to apply.
In addition, the Government has made it clear that where a person eligible for leave under the EU Settlement Scheme has reasonable grounds for missing the application deadline, they will be given a further opportunity to apply.
However, the Home Office has not yet clarified what will constitute “reasonable grounds”, so we would recommend caution in relying on this statement; far better to make Settled Status applications within the time limits, especially given that there is still over a year to submit these applications.
Instead of taking any risks, it would be prudent for EU nationals to take steps now to ensure they do not miss this deadline.
While applications continue to be processed, during this challenging time they will take longer than usual.