Immigration settlement scheme details unveiled for EU workers

By Grimsby Telegraph | Posted: 22 Jun 2018

A new immigration scheme for EU nationals living in the UK is set to receive its first applications within weeks.

The Home Office hopes to begin testing an online platform with a small number of real cases from the end of the summer, ahead of a phased roll-out later this year.

With the Humber’s seafood and agri-food industries highly dependent on European workers, the detail will be welcomed by employers facing uncertainty.

Yesterday (Thursday) ministers released details on the settlement scheme for EU migrants seeking to stay in the UK after the post-Brexit implementation period ends on December 31, 2020.

Applicants will have to pay £65, which is the same as the current fee for a permanent residence document and £10.50 cheaper than the minimum for a standard British passport.

The fee will be £32.50 for children under the age of 16, and free of charge for those who already have permanent residence documents.

In a private “beta” phase, a small number of applications will be run through the system to test that it works effectively.

There will then be a phased roll-out from late 2018, with the Home Office saying the scheme will be open “fully” by March 30 – the day after Britain officially departs the bloc. The final deadline for applications is the end of June 2021.

EU citizens and family members who have been in the UK for five years by the end of 2020 will be able to apply for “settled status”, meaning they are free to go on living and working in the UK indefinitely.

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Those who have arrived by December 31, 2020, but do not have five years’ residence, can seek to stay until they have, at which point they can seek settled status.

While the Government’s aim is for the applications to be turned round in a fortnight, officials are hopeful answers could be given well within that timeframe.

Publishing a “statement of intent” on the arrangements, Home Secretary Sajid Javid said: “Throughout, we will be looking to grant, not for reasons to refuse.

“I do not underestimate the scale of the challenge, but the Home Office already issues around seven million passports and three million visas each year, and so processing applications on the scale required is not new to us.”

Applicants will submit their request for settled or pre-settled status using an online platform.

They will be asked to prove their identity with a passport or ID card, declare any criminal convictions and upload a facial photograph.

The Home Office will check employment and benefits data to confirm proof of residence, while all applications will be run through UK criminality and security databases.

In cases flagged up for concern, overseas criminal records can be checked – but this will not be automatic.

The same test will be applied as is currently used to determine whether an individual can be deported because of criminal conduct – whether they present a genuine, present and sufficiently serious threat to the fundamental interests of UK society.

The Home Office document said this is a “sensible approach”, adding: “We are not concerned here with minor offences, such as a parking fine”.

There were an estimated 3.8 million EU nationals living in the UK last year, and as reported in February, analysis by Seafish, the fish processing sector industry authority, found a third of workers in the area’s seafood industry are from Europe, far higher reliance than an earlier snapshot had suggested when Brexit’s impact emerged.

Nigel Edwards, technical and corporate social responsibility director for one of the area’s largest operators, Grimsby’s Seachill, has previously said: “These are skilled jobs and people enjoy excellent careers in our industry. However, we share the same challenges as the food industry in general  – and many other industries across the UK – that we offer a great place to work and excellent opportunities for training and career development, but there are simply too few people in the labour market to fill all our roles locally.”

The paper also confirms:

  • Close family members living overseas will still be able to join an EU citizen after the implementation period;
  • Non-EU nationals who meet certain criteria will be able to apply for settled status as a family member after the relationship has ended, such as because of death or divorce;
  • Applicants who are refused will be able to re-apply at any point, and however many times they wish, up to the end of June 2021;
  • Holders of settled status could be absent from the UK for up to five years before it lapses.

Immigration Minister Caroline Nokes said: “EU citizens make a huge contribution to our economy and to our society.

“They are our friends, family and colleagues and we want them to stay.”

Labour MP Yvette Cooper, who chairs the Commons Home Affairs committee, said: “The Government has rightly provided more clarity on how the EU settlement scheme will operate, and we need more information from other countries on what the arrangements for UK citizens resident there will be.”

She added that “far more answers” are still needed about what happens to those who have not registered by the deadline through no fault of their own.

Reaction was swift from all quarters. 

Matthew Fell, CBI chief UK policy director, said: “Businesses want to help their EU staff navigate the process to stay in the UK and welcome this clarity around the future rules. It is absolutely right that the Home Office’s default is to look for reasons to grant, rather than deny, applications and ensure caseworkers have the necessary flexibility to exercise discretion when considering EU national’s individual circumstances.

“Now the Home Office must match these words with delivery of an efficient and smooth process.

“It is also time to confirm that this offer to EU citizens is independent of wider negotiations and that it will not be taken off the table altogether in the event of ‘no deal’.”

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Alp Mehmet, vice chairman of Migration Watch UK, said: “The government seem to have conceded almost every point demanded by the EU.

“Meanwhile there is very little evidence that EU member states have done anything to speak of for British residents in their countries.”

Jill Rutter, director of strategy at think tank British Future, warned the Government faces a “massive task”.

She added: “After Windrush showed what happens when you get it wrong, it is important that the Home Secretary sends a very clear message that the central purpose of this policy is for everybody eligible to qualify, so they can get on with their lives in the UK.”

Here are the main steps in the application process:

Online form: The Home Office is designing an online application platform which it says will be simple and user-friendly. Applicants will be asked to provide their biographical information, declare whether they have any criminal records, and upload a facial photograph.

Identity: The process requires verification of the applicant's identity and nationality using a passport, ID card or other valid document. This can be done using a mobile app or through secure post.

Residence: Where possible, the applicant will be helped to demonstrate they have been continuously living in the UK using data held by HMRC and the Department for Work and Pensions. Where automated checks are not applicable or do not indicate the citizen has been continuously resident in the UK, documentary evidence will be required.

Criminality checks: The Home Office will carry out checks against UK criminality and security databases in all cases. Applications will only be considered for refusal where someone has been convicted of a serious offence.

Answer: Officials hope to provide applicants with a response on whether their application has been successful within a fortnight. Evidence of settled status will be given to EU citizens in digital form - no physical document will be issued.

Appeals: Where a valid application is refused, there will be the right to request an administrative review. Someone who has been refused status under the scheme can make a new application at any point before the end of June 2021. In addition, the Government is planning to introduce legislation so there will be a statutory right of appeal for applications made from March 30 next year.

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