The UK Government has published the results of its first pilot of the EU Settlement Scheme, the scheme for registering EU citizens who are already in the UK when we leave the European Union on 29 March 2019.
The EU Settlement Scheme will provide the basis for resident EU citizens and their family members to obtain the UK immigration status which they will require to remain in the UK after the end of the planned implementation period on 31 December 2020.
Under current proposals, EU citizens who have been in the UK for more than 5 years by 31 December 2020 will be eligible to apply for settled status, whilst those with less than 5 years will be eligible to apply for pre-settled status, allowing them to remain until they are eligible to apply for settled status.
All EU citizens will have until 30 June 2021 to apply.
The UK Visa and Immigration Authority has trialled the application process in the North West of England with twelve NHS Trusts and three universities. The UKVI have stated that the application process will be a simple online process with no need to submit original documents. One thousand EU applicants took part in the trial and the feedback on the speed and ease of the application process has been positive, with the technology performing well. The UKVI supported the applicants by providing guidance documentation and holding engagement events across the 15 pilot sites, answering any questions that applicants had.
The simplified process involves submitting an application on a smart phone app, the cost of which will be £65 or free for those who already have permanent residence.
Key findings from the Pilot Scheme
- The average time taken to obtain decisions was under 9 calendar days, with the fastest decision being made within 3 days.
- 100% of applicants successfully proved their identity.
- Systems to check the applicant’s suitability (criminal record) worked effectively.
- The majority of applicants did not have to provide any additional evidence; decisions were made solely on automated checks made against HMRC data.
- The fastest application was made in 8 minutes and just under half of applicants took less than 20 minutes to complete the application process.
The next phase of the scheme is to be rolled out and will test the integration of various application components. The aim is for the scheme to be fully operational by 30 March 2019.
What if no deal is reached?
Theresa May has previously indicated that the rights of EU citizens in the UK will be protected in a no deal scenario. This suggests that the EU settlement scheme will be implemented whether or not we reach a deal. However, in the absence of a deal, free movement will end on 30 March 2019 and there may be no implementation period. Therefore, the rights of those arriving from the EU after Brexit remains to be seen.
What about the future?
The clearest indication we have about the Government’s future immigration policy is the Migration Advisory Committee’s (MAC) September 2018 report, which recommended that EU citizens should not be given preferential treatment and should apply along with other international migrants under the current UK Immigration Tier 2 regime. If implemented, this brings a number of challenges for businesses, including additional cost, delay and, for those companies not already Licensed Sponsors, the need to register for sponsorship. Registering as a Sponsor brings, in turn, onerous compliance and reporting obligations and additional emphasis on right to work checks, because of the potentially serious repercussions for the Sponsor Licence.
Despite being told that we are reaching the Brexit endgame, we are still awaiting the promised White Paper. It has been reported that Theresa May has called a cabinet meeting to discuss the Draft Withdrawal Bill today but there is much speculation on whether she will gain the support necessary from MPs to pass it….
For more on what your business can be doing to prepare for Brexit, the EU Settlement Scheme and future immigration policy, please register here for our free Securing International Talent Event on 28 November 2018.
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