Important policy changes to the
EU Settlement Scheme

Last month, Smith Stone Walters reported on the latest set of changes to the UK’s Immigration Rules that were announced by the Home Office in two Statements published on 17 and 19 July. A key change set out in the first statement relates to the EU Settlement Scheme (EUSS).

New Immigration Rules laid in Parliament on 17 July confirm that from September 2023 people with pre-settled status under the EU Settlement Scheme (EUSS) will automatically have their status extended by 2 years before it expires if they have not obtained settled status.

The change is being formally incorporated into the Immigration Rules following a court ruling last year which found that the EUSS breaches the Withdrawal Agreement between the UK and the EU by requiring holders of pre-settled status to make a further application for settled status in order to become lawfully resident.

The Statement of Changes Explanatory Memorandum states: “The judgment found that the right to reside under the Agreements of a person granted pre-settled status does not expire by virtue of failing to make a second application to the EUSS; the Secretary of State will therefore make arrangements for pre-settled status to be extended automatically in relevant cases.”

It is now more than 2 years since the EUSS application deadline of 30 June 2021. However, late applications will still be accepted in certain circumstances.

What is the EU Settlement Scheme?

First opened in March 2019, the EU Settlement Scheme is designed to help Europeans secure their residency status and retain their right to live and work in the UK post-Brexit.

The scheme enables EU, other European Economic Area (EEA) and Swiss citizens living in the UK by the end of the transition period on 31 December 2020, and their family members and the family members of certain British citizens returning with them from the EEA or Switzerland, to obtain ‘settled’ or ‘pre-settled’ status.

As of 31 March 2023, an estimated 5.6 million Europeans and their family members had secured their rights in the UK through the EUSS, with an estimated 2.1 million holding pre-settled status and an estimated 3.5 million holding settled status.

What changes are being introduced?

From September 2023, holders of pre-settled status will automatically have their status extended by 2 years before it expires if they have not obtained settled status.

The process will be automated by the Home Office and reflected in the person’s digital status. They will be notified of the extension directly. This will ensure that nobody loses their immigration status if they do not apply to switch from pre-settled to settled status.

The Home Office also intends to take steps to automatically convert as many eligible pre-settled status holders as possible to settled status once they are eligible for it, without them needing to make an application. During 2024, automated checks of pre-settled status will establish their ongoing continuous residence in the UK. Safeguards will be in place to ensure that settled status is not wrongly granted.

The range of measures laid before Parliament will allow the Home Office to ensure the integrity of the EUSS, protecting it from fraud and abuse. These measures include changes to the way reasonable grounds for late applications to the scheme are considered. The Home Office is also closing two temporary transitional routes (the Surinder Singh and Zambrano routes), both of which fall outside the UK’s Withdrawal Agreement commitments.

Speak to an immigration expert

If you need advice or support regarding the EU Settlement Scheme or your immigration status and right to work in the UK, Smith Stone Walters can help.

To speak to a qualified immigration advisor, please contact us today.

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