The final countdown to the 30 June European Union (EU) settlement scheme deadline has begun, following which many EU citizens in the UK could face legal trouble. Here's what the academics want you to know.
There is growing nervousness in think tanks, employers, and arm's length bodies across the UK that many EU citizens could miss the EU settlement scheme deadline.
UK in A Changing Europe, an independent policy research organisation says that many EU citizens will "immediately and irreversibly lose their rights of residence" after the 30 June cut-off due to very little public awareness of the upcoming changes to the immigration rules, and incomplete government data on immigration - potentially causing serious political tumult.
However, the EU settlement scheme is relatively straightforward. There are three key things to know about the new immigration settlement policy.
The first: the EU settlement scheme is a free public scheme enabling the citizens of the EU, European Economic Area (EEA) and Swiss citizens and their family members who were resident in the UK on or before 31 December 2020 to obtain a 'settlement status' to live and work in the UK.
The second: a prospective applicant needs to complete just three key steps to obtain a settlement status - prove their identity, show that they're residing in the UK or within its territory, and declare any criminal convictions.
The third and the most important aspect is that the process is straightforward, with support available for applicants at every stage. Currently, more than 1500 Home Office staff are working full-time in aid of those applying to the settlement scheme. In addition, the Home Office has invested up to £22m in funding for a network of now 72 organisations - including charities, local government bodies and authorities across the UK.
The Home Office also provides help in applying to the EU settlement scheme for the elderly, the disabled, for children in care, those with mental health issues - and anyone who needs it.
Supporting staff who are applying
Following the EU settlement scheme deadline, employers will be required to carry out right to work checks on any citizen who is not a legal resident of the UK.
If you employ citizens who come from the EU, it is worth informing them about the new settlement scheme to ensure that they and their family members can remain in the UK after the deadline date of June 2021. It is also worth communicating clearly to all staff that employers will be required to carry out new right to work checks after the deadline. The coming weeks may be a challenging period for staff from the EU, and that should be borne in mind in all communications.
A key way to support your EU and non-EU EEA employees is through the trust-wide dissemination of relevant information. Raising awareness about the EU settlement scheme deadline among staff and pointing potential applicants to the settlement scheme in the right direction is important, and many trusts have taken this approach to good effect over the past couple of years. The Home Office toolkit equips employers across the UK with the resources to support EU and non-EU EEA employees to apply to the EU settlement scheme. A dossier outlining key information about the EU settlement scheme to aid leadership, HR and line managers of EU citizens can be downloaded on the rules, guidance and support section of the Home Office website.
Eligible applicants, including EU citizens, citizens of Iceland, Lichtenstein, and Norway (non-EU EEA citizens) and Swiss citizens can apply under the settlement scheme, so long as they are currently in the UK, or arrived by 11PM on 31 December 2020. An exhaustive list of eligible applicants can be found on the Home Office guidance on the EU settlement scheme. There is an eligibility checking tool here.
Missed the deadline: What's next?
EU, EEA and Swiss citizens who miss their EU settlement scheme deadline will be issued with formal 28 day notices to complete their applications. While the government has said it wants to take a flexible and lenient approach to those who cannot complete applications by this point, it has confirmed there will be no extension to the deadline, and individuals "may be liable for enforcement action and will not be eligible for work, benefits or services".
Therefore, eligible EU citizens must apply to the EU settlement scheme before the 30 June deadline to stay and work in the UK without having to step into the legal limbo - tainted by ambiguity and uncertainties.