What’s Next for Europeans

Is the EEA Settled Status scheme really that simple?


EEA settled statusWhen the government first introduced the ‘settled status’ scheme, it was promised to be a simple and straightforward procedure. However, recent changes show that this might not be the case.

What is the Settled Status scheme?

Currently, EU nationals can live, study and work in the UK due to the EU’s free movement rules. After Brexit, the free movement rules will no longer apply to the UK and, as a result, a new system is required to allow EU nationals to continue living in the UK after December 2020. This new system is called the ‘settled status’ scheme and it will replace the permanent residence scheme, which is based on EU law.

How can nationals obtain EEA Settled Status?

In June 2018, details of the ‘settled status’ scheme were set out in a ministerial document. Within this statement of intent, the Home Secretary Sajid Javid explained the simplicity and straightforwardness of the process. He stated that obtaining ‘settled status’ simply requires EU nationals to have lived in the UK continuously for five years. He also states that the application process will only involve three simple stages: verifying one’s identity, evidencing their residence in the UK, and proving that they are not a serious criminal.

Additionally, EU nationals with less than five years’ continuous residence in the UK will be granted ‘pre-settled status’. They will be able to apply for ‘settled status’ once their continuous residence has reached five years.

What is the current situation?

In August 2018, the Immigration Rules were altered in order to implement the ‘settled status’ scheme. However, a new provision (provision EU15(c)) was also inserted. This provision states that applications for ‘settled status’ would be rejected if the applicant is subject to a removal decision for not exercising or misusing EU Treaty rights.

In response to this new provision, the Joint Council for the Welfare of Immigrants (JCWI), an independent charity that campaigns for justice in immigration, nationality and refugee law and policy, has launched a legal challenge in the High Court against the ‘settled status’ scheme.

The JCWI is arguing that the new provision makes the ‘settled status’ scheme broader than what was promised which contradicts the government’s earlier claims of the scheme being simple and straightforward. They are also arguing that non-exercise of EU Treaty rights has nothing to do with criminality which contradicts claims of serious criminal offences being the only grounds for refusal of status for EU nationals resident in the UK.

According to a JCWI briefing, those affected by the new provision include EU nationals who are currently subject to a removal decision and EU nationals who may be subject to a removal decision in the future before they have been granted ‘settled status’. A news site, Europe Street News, states that affected EU nationals will also include those who were homeless, and those who were economically inactive and did not have necessary sickness insurance.

EU nationals affected by the new provision will become undocumented migrants as they will not be granted a legal right to live in the UK. This means that EU nationals have no guarantee that they will be allowed to continue living, working and studying in the UK by directly applying for ‘settled status’ through the government’s scheme.

Are there any alternatives?

With so much uncertainty surrounding the rights of EU nationals to continue living in the UK after Brexit, it would be safer and more cost effective for EU nationals to secure their rights in alternative ways. One such method would be applying for a Permanent Residence (PR) card.

Although applying for a PR card is optional, it is valid proof of an EU national’s right to permanently live, work and study in the UK. Additionally, a PR card obtained before Brexit can be swapped for a ‘settled status’ document free of charge and with no further evidence required.

How can NA Law Solicitors help?

As specialists in individual immigration, we can help you apply for your permanent residence card. If you have any questions about anything mentioned in this article or have specific queries about your immigration matter, please do not hesitate to contact us for a free 15-minute telephone consultation.

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