16 June 2021
EU Settlement Scheme
EU Settlement Scheme: why it is crucial to apply before the 30 June 2021 deadline
The EU-UK Withdrawal Agreement under which the UK left the EU on 31 December 2020 provided for a “grace period”, until 30 June 2021, during which time EU citizens living in the UK would retain their residence rights. Under the terms of the Withdrawal Agreement, EU citizens wishing to remain in the UK after the conclusion of the grace period must apply for settled status, i.e. to protect their residence rights in the UK going forward, through the EU Settlement Scheme (EUSS).
The deadline of 30 June 2021 is now less than three weeks away and according to the group UK in a Changing Europe, as of 31 March 2021 there have been 5.2 million applications under the EUSS. However, while there is simply no way of calculating the current number of EU citizens in the UK who have yet to apply for settled status, it is thought that there are still many who have yet to secure their post-Brexit rights and may therefore face the prospect of becoming illegal migrants and removal from the UK post 30 June 2021. Indeed, as late as January 2021 when the Joint Council for the Welfare of Immigrants published their study, ‘When the clapping stops: EU Care Workers after Brexit’ they found from a survey of 300 care workers that 1 in 7 did not know or was not sure what the EUSS was and one in three did not know about the deadline for applying.
The reason that applying to the EUSS before the 30 June 2021 is so important is that there are virtually no exemptions for failing to do so except in very specific circumstances. The Home Office published more detailed guidance on 21 May 2021, after a judicial review case based on the lack of clear guidance and the potential this caused for discrimination against certain vulnerable groups of EU citizens. In this guidance it states that the deadline is 30 June, unless ‘at the date of application, there are reasonable grounds for the person’s failure to meet that deadline’.
What are ‘reasonable grounds’? Well firstly, the guidance says that generally the more time that has elapsed since the deadline, the harder it will be to consider a late application reasonable. However, the Home Office do say that this presumption will not apply where the EU citizen in question was still a child before 30 June 2021 and their parent or guardian has not made an application to remain on their behalf; this situation should amount to a reasonable ground for missing the deadline. Other reasonable grounds include where a person lacks physical or mental capacity to make an application or where a person makes a late application and has care or support needs, e.g. has a disability or is in a care home and this has prevented them applying. Further grounds include, where the person has been a victim of modern slavery or has been in an abusive or controlling relationship and this has prevented them making an application. Finally, there is the potentially reasonable ground of ‘other compelling practical or compassionate reasons’ which is said to include not knowing about the deadline because of a complete lack of internet access or a very limited knowledge of English. For all these potentially reasonable grounds, sufficient evidence must be adduced.
As can be seen from the above, for most EU citizens living in the UK, missing the 30 June 2021 deadline could be fatal to any desire to acquire post-Brexit rights and live and work legally in the UK, potentially leading to immigration enforcement and expulsion. It is therefore critical that any EU citizens, who have yet to apply, do so before the 30 June 2021.
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