Important updates to EU Settlement Scheme
What are the changes I should know about?
Email communications from the Home Office are now being circulated to status holders to update them regarding two changes:
1. Automatic extension of pre-settled status
From September 2023, pre-settled status holders who have not yet obtained settled status and are approaching the expiry date of their pre-settled status will have their status automatically extended by 2 years.
2. Automatic upgrade to settled status
In addition, the Home Office have also announced that they plan to take steps during 2024 to start automatically switching pre-settled status holders to settled status, without them needing to make an application, where those people are eligible.
These changes follow a High Court ruling that found the way the EU Settlement Scheme was operating to be unlawful. The scheme requires pre-settled status holders whose status was soon to expire to either apply for settled status (and meet eligibility criteria required for this), find an alternative suitable immigration category, or risk becoming an overstayer if they were not eligible, as there was no option to extend pre-settled status under the scheme. This was extremely concerning for EU nationals and their family members who held pre-settled status and placed thousands at risk, particularly those who may be vulnerable. As the earliest applications under the EU Settlement Scheme were made in August 2018 when the scheme was first tested with a small number of NHS staff, the first cohort of people who may be disadvantaged by the scheme’s flaws were approaching the expiry of their 5-year pre-settled status in August 2023. This announcement from the Home Office in July 2018 was therefore a last-minute reaction to the High Court ruling and the upcoming deadline to ensure that nobody was impacted by these potential consequences.
The announcement is of course a welcome update for many EUSS status holders who have not yet been able to build up the required period continuous residence required for settled status. An applicant will be eligible for settled status where they have lived in the UK for a continuous qualifying period of 5 years. The continuity of this period can be broken by absences from the UK exceeding a total of six months in any 12-month period, so there is potential for pre-settled status holders who travel frequently to be in a position where they cannot apply for settled status at the end of their 5 years pre-settled status. This latest announcement will mean that they will receive an extra 2 years during which they can continue to build their residence. It is not yet known what the Home Office plans to do following this temporary 2-year extension regarding anyone remains ineligible for settled status.
What do I need to know?
The Home Office have started to send emails to pre-settled status holders which confirms these plans and they indicate that further information will be sent at a later date. For now, they stress that you do not need to contact the Home Office about making this change as the actions will be automatic.
You will be notified when the extension has been applied and you will be able to see this reflected in your digital status via your UKVI account: View and prove your immigration status: get a share code - GOV.UK (www.gov.uk)
We know that eligibility for the automatic switch to settled status will be checked against government information records held by HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC) and the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP). It is not yet confirmed how the Home Office will deal with these automatic upgrades where government records do not confirm the required period of residence. Usually, the online application portal would request that alternative evidence of residence be uploaded- perhaps the Home Office will reach out to contact pre-settled status holders in this scenario to request evidence.
The Home Office also reiterate that those who hold pre-settled status and have already been living continuously in the UK for at least 5 years do not have to wait until 2024 for their status to be automatically extended. Anyone who is eligible to switch to settled status should do this as soon as they can. You can apply for settled status at any time, for free, at https://www.gov.uk/eusettlementscheme.
It is of course vital that you do not allow your status to expire without making an application to extend it, unless you have been informed by the Home Office that this has been done automatically. Failing to update your status can have severe consequences as you would lose your right to live and work in the UK and this can be difficult to reinstate quickly. If you have concerns about whether the automatic extension will apply to you, you can contact the Home Office EU Resolution Centre. If your case is complex then it is recommended that you take independent legal advice regarding this.
These changes will not impact you if you already have settled status or have since become a British citizen. If these announcements are relevant for you, it is important that you be aware of the upcoming changes and look out for future updates. It’s therefore essential to keep your contact information with the Home Office up to date, to ensure you receive any updates or communications on your EUSS status.
You can update your personal information, including your contact details and your linked travel document, by using the ‘Update your UK Visas and Immigration account details’ service at https://www.gov.uk/update-uk-visas-immigration-account-details or by signing into your UKVI account and selecting the ‘update details function’.
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