The Home Affairs Committee has reviewed the EU Settlement Scheme and has concluded that there are a number of issues which the Government must resolve if it is to adequately support and protect EU citizens in the UK.
The EU Settlement Scheme is the process by which EU/EEA citizens and their family members apply for settled or pre-settled status in the UK.
Summary of concerns
The Committee’s summary provides a snap-shot of its key concerns as set out in detail in the report:
“Despite the Home Office’s pledge that it will be looking for reasons to accept applications to the Settlement Scheme rather than to refuse, and that it will take a flexible approach which exercises discretion in the favour of the applicant, we have serious concerns that the detailed design of the Scheme means that many EU citizens currently resident in the UK are at risk of being left out.
Technical issues have blighted the application process, with applicants struggling to navigate the online system without assistance from the Home Office. Many others will fail to apply successfully, either because they are unaware that the Scheme applies to them or because they are unable adequately to evidence their entitlement to status. There remain too many gaps and ambiguities in the Government’s guidance—including what will happen to individuals who do not apply before the deadline and how it will ensure that citizens are not disadvantaged in the case of a no deal Brexit—and we remain doubtful as to the Home Office’s ability to handle the number and complexity of applications it will receive over the lifetime of the Scheme.
The Government has chosen to implement a system which does not grant status to eligible people but requires them to apply for it, and the Home Secretary told us that EU citizens are only entitled to the status which they are able to evidence. We disagree with this. We believe that EU citizens legally resident in the UK before its departure from the European Union should have their rights protected and their entitlement to remain enshrined in law.
We therefore call on the Government to protect in law the rights of EU citizens in the UK. The Government should guarantee in law that any EU citizens living in the UK before Brexit (and who would be eligible for status under the Settlement Scheme) are legal residents of the UK and are able to continue to live and work as they have done until now. The Settlement Scheme should operate in addition to provide them with proof of their entitlement to remain. This would mean that EU citizens in the UK are protected post-Brexit from the difficulties and uncertainties which blighted the Windrush generation. EU citizens are our friends, colleagues and valued members of UK society: it is only right that the Government should give them certainty and security.”
The Committee has made the following recommendations:
- EU citizens legally resident in the UK before Brexit should have their rights protected and entitlement to remain enshrined in law.
- The Settlement Scheme should operate as a means for EU citizens to obtain formal, physical confirmation of their status, not just as a digital system.
- The granting of legal rights and the Settlement Scheme should operate in the same way if the UK leaves the EU with or without a deal.
- Improvements must be made to the application process which has been blighted by technical issues.
- The Scheme must identify ways of supporting children and vulnerable individuals to apply.
- The Government must clarify its intentions towards those who fail to apply.
Home Office press release
Although not referencing the report, the Home Office opted to issue a press release on the same day the report was published citing the ‘early success’ of the scheme.
If you require more information or advice
We regularly update our Brexit Immigration Analysis in order to provide guidance for EU nationals and employers. It also contains information on how to make an application and on the various scenarios that may arise.
If you require further information or advice, please contact us.