EU Settlement Scheme:
Reasonable grounds for
late applications

At midnight on 30 June 2021 the Brexit grace period came to an end, and at the same time, applications to the EU Settlement Scheme closed.

EU, EEA and Swiss citizens who were living in the UK by 31 December 2020 had until 30 June 2021 to file an application under the EU Settlement Scheme, in order to get the immigration status they need to continue living, working, studying and accessing benefits and services in the UK after the grace period.

Although the deadline has now passed, the Home Office has made certain provisions for late applicants, meaning you may still be able to apply if you can show that you had ‘reasonable grounds’ for missing the deadline.

Non-exhaustive caseworker guidance sets out a wide range of circumstances which would be considered reasonable grounds for late applications, including guidance for vulnerable groups such as children and care leavers, who may not realise for months or even years to come that an application was not submitted on their behalf.

Why do you need to apply to the EU Settlement Scheme?

From 1 July 2021, EU, EEA and Swiss citizens and their family members are required to hold a valid UK immigration status to evidence their right to reside in the UK now that the grace period has ended.

Successful applicants to the EU Settlement Scheme are granted either settled or pre-settled status, depending on how long they had been in the UK at the time of application. Failure to secure settled or pre-settled status under the EU Settlement Scheme means your rights are not protected by UK law. This may negatively impact your eligibility to work, study and access benefits and services in the UK, and to rent a property in England.

You will still need to apply to the scheme even if you have lived in the UK for many years, are married to a British citizen or hold a permanent residence document. Children will also need their own individual applications if they are not British citizens or they do not have indefinite leave to enter or remain in the UK.

Reasonable grounds for late applications

If you have missed the 30 June 2021 deadline, you may still be able to submit a late application. The Home Office has stated that it will take a ‘flexible and pragmatic’ approach to accepting late applications, and will look for reasons to grant applications, not to refuse them.

Examples given by the Home Office of situations that would be deemed ‘reasonable grounds’ for submitting a late application include, but are not limited to, the following:

  • Where a parent, guardian or Local Authority has failed to apply on behalf of a child
  • Where a person has or had a serious medical condition which means they were unable to apply by the deadline
  • Where someone is a victim or modern slavery or is in an abusive relationship
  • Where someone is isolated, vulnerable or did not have the digital skills to submit an application
  • Where a person was unable to apply by the deadline for compelling practical or compassionate reasons, including reasons relating to the coronavirus pandemic.

If you do not have status or a pending application and you are encountered by Immigration Enforcement, you will be provided with a written notice giving you an opportunity to apply to the EU Settlement Scheme, normally within 28 days.

Children (including children in care and care leavers)

Campaign groups have previously warned that vulnerable groups such as children in care and care leavers are most at risk of slipping through the net if a settlement application is not submitted on their behalf.

Furthermore, it may take months or even years for such individuals to realise they do not hold a legal immigration status in the UK, for example when they first need to evidence their status in order to work or study in the UK.

The Home Office guidance includes provisions for such circumstances relating to children under the age of 18. The guidance states that where a parent, guardian or Local Authority has failed to submit an application to the EU Settlement Scheme by the deadline on behalf of a child under 18, this will normally constitute ‘reasonable grounds’ for the child – even where they are now an adult – to make a late application.

Examples given in the guidance which would constitute reasonable grounds include:

  • The child’s parent(s) applied to the scheme themselves but did not realise a separate application was needed for the child, or they did realise but did not get around to making the application
  • The child’s parent(s) did not apply to the scheme themselves and similarly took no action for the child
  • The child is in or has left Local Authority care and the Local Authority did not make an application to the scheme on their behalf
  • The EEA citizen parents of a non-British citizen child born or adopted in the UK after 31 December 2020 were not aware that they needed to make an application for the child within three months of the birth, adoption or guardianship order.
  • The child was at school in the UK whilst their parents worked overseas and the child, school and parents were unaware of the need for the child to apply.

The caseworker guidance notes that caseworkers do not need to consider the reasons why a parent, guardian or Local Authority failed to apply to the scheme on behalf of the child by the deadline, or why the child did not apply themselves by the deadline. Late applications can be made by the child themselves, whether or not they are now an adult, or by a parent, guardian, Local Authority or an appropriate third party. More information about such cases can be found here.

How to make a late application

Before making your application, you can check if you are eligible by visiting Applications can be submitted for free online via from a computer, tablet or smartphone.

A range of support services are available for late applicants, from one-to-one support over the phone to in-person help with completing the online application.

  • EU Settlement Resolution Centre – To access this service, you can call 0300 123 7379 from inside the UK or +44 (0) 20 3080 0010 from outside the UK (Monday to Friday, 8am to 8pm and Saturday to Sunday, 9.30am to 4.30pm).
  • Assisted Digital – This free service is available over the phone or in-person, and can help those who do not have the access, skills or confidence to complete the online application form. We-Are-Digital can be contacted on 03333 445 675 (Monday to Friday, 9am–5pm) or by texting the word “VISA” to 07537 416944.
  • ID document scanning service – Those who do not have access to the EU Exit: ID Document Check app can use this service to complete the identity verification step. There may be an administrative charge to use this service.
  • Community support – Local community support organisations are available to provide help with applications. A list of organisations can be found on the website here.

One-to-one support with your application

Alternatively, if you have questions or require help with your application, Smith Stone Walters can help.

We have provided easy to understand guidance and practical support to many of our clients on EU Settlement Scheme applications, and can advise you on your eligibility to submit a late application. To speak to an advisor, please contact us today.

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