Following the initial testing phase of the scheme in August, the second phase of the EU Settlement Scheme pilot began yesterday, 01 November 2018. We will summarise details of the pilot and the requirements of the scheme, and provide some guidance on how employers can prepare for the full implementation of the scheme in March 2019.
Confirmed to be fully rolled out by March 2019, the ‘settled and pre-settled status’ scheme is the new route by which EU migrants and their families must apply to remain in the UK after Brexit.
The initial limited pilot of the EU Settlement Scheme started at the end of August 2018 and involved 12 NHS Trusts and 3 universities in the North West of England. Approximately 4,000 EU migrants have been eligible to apply for the first phase of the pilot, however, only around 25% of those eligible have taken this opportunity. Despite this, the Home Office has reported positive feedback from customers on the ease of the application process (around 95% of applicants who provided feedback commented that they found the application process easy to complete, taking approximately 15-20 minutes).
The second phase of the pilot has now been announced and will include staff in higher education, health and social care sectors. The second phase will run from, 01 November, to 21 December 2018 and will test the full online application process, particularly given in the first phase only 1053 EU citizens applied.
From 1 November 2018 15 NHS Trusts and 3 universities in north-west England will be able to participate and from 29 November 2018 all NHS Trusts and NHS Foundation Trusts in England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland will be able to participate along with other organisations in the health and social care sectors. From 15 November 2018 you will also be able to apply if you’re employed at a higher education institution. The government has also opened up the pilot to children under the age of 18 being looked after by one of the local authorities and those receiving support from one of the community organisations involved in the pilot.
If you are a resident EU citizen with a valid passport, employed in one of sectors noted above, then you will be eligible to apply. Non-EU family members of EU citizens with biometric residence cards will also be able to apply if they are working in higher education, health or social care sectors. Despite calls to extend the pilot from the Scottish and Welsh health secretaries, family members will not be able to apply during this phase of the pilot unless they are also eligible through their employment with a participating organisation.
Applications will be made online, generally. The government has hinted in the past that a paper application form will be an option at a later stage, but there is no further information on who will be allowed to use it. At this stage, during the pilot, an application can only be filed using the Home Office ‘app’ which only works on android phones, and not on iPhones. This is likely to cause difficulties and it is expected that accessibility will be expanded at a later stage.
In summary there are three steps to complete: Identity; UK residence; and criminality. Under the Scheme, EU citizens and their family members who have resided in the UK lawfully for 5 years will be entitled to ‘settled status’ to protect their rights to reside in the UK or ‘pre-settled status’ where they have been in the UK for less than 5 years. Those who are granted ‘pre-settled status’ will then be allowed to apply for ‘settled status’ once they have completed 5 years lawful residence.
Applicants will be able to provide evidence of their identity by uploading an ID card or passport picture to the Home Office ‘app.’ Those who do not have these documents will be required to send their original documents by post instead. The Home Office will verify applicant’s residence in the UK through an automated check of UK tax and benefits records. Again, if they are unable to verify that an applicant has continuously resided in the UK for five years without absences of more than 6 months in a year, the applicant can provide the Home Office with scanned paper documents to prove their residency.
Finally, all applicants will be subject to criminality and security checks. On top of the normal self-declaration of criminal convictions contained in most immigration applicants, the Home Office will also carry out its own checks.
The Home Office has published an employer's toolkit intended to give employers tools and information to support their EU workers and their families on applying under the new EU Settlement Scheme.
At this stage, employer’s should be prepared to assist staff with proof of their continuous residence by providing copies of relevant documents such as payslips, employment contracts, p60s and p45s.
If you are looking to apply for EU settled status or wish to discuss your personal needs with one of our solicitors, please do not hesitate to contact us today.
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