Public test phase opens
The EU Settlement Scheme is currently accepting applications via a public test phase, available to EU nationals as well as non-EU national family members of EU nationals. This is the third phase of testing; with the first two phases being restricted to certain people working in higher education and health and social care.
The public test phase launched on 21 January 2019 and allows EU nationals as well as their non-EU national family members to apply, providing they:
- are resident in the UK;
- have a valid passport with a biometric chip;
- have a biometric residence permit if you are a non-EU national family member of an EU national; and
- are able to complete a self-service identity check using an Android device.
While many EU nationals will be relieved to obtain settled status, we would like to stress that there is no need to apply now. There will be plenty of time to apply once the EU Settlement Scheme launches fully on 30 March 2019. The deadline to apply will be 30 June 2021 if a deal is agreed, and 31 December 2020 in a no deal scenario.
With continued uncertainty surrounding Brexit, we would advise anyone thinking of applying as part of the public test phase to consider whether it is really necessary to apply now. It may be better to wait until there is more clarity. We would also like to remind potential applicants that this is a test phase designed to ensure that systems are working as envisioned. As such, applicants applying now may experience unexpected issues that are yet to be identified and resolved by earlier testing of the system.
PM scraps application fees
On Monday, 21 January 2019, Theresa May announced that the government will waive the application fee under the EU Settlement Scheme “so that there is no financial barrier for any EU nationals who wish to stay”. The fee was previously £65 for adults and £32.50 for children.
The decision comes after criticism and campaigning from various MPs, the Scottish Parliament and various organisations that the application fee was an unjustifiable burden to employers and EU nationals and that it did not highlight the valuable contributions EU workers brought to the economy.
Those who have already applied or are currently applying via the public testing phase will need to apply for reimbursement of their application fees. Theresa May has stated that “more details about how this will work will be made available in due course.”
Results of private testing phase 2
The Home Office has released a report summarising the results of the second phase of testing of the EU Settlement Scheme. Phase 2 was open from 1 November to 21 December 2018, with close to 30,000 EU nationals submitting applications. The key headlines from this phase are:
- Processing time: 81% of decided cases were processed in a week with 69% decided within three working days.
- User experience data shows that the technology has performed well: 77% of applicants surveyed found that the application was very or fairly easy to complete, with 70% agreeing that the application form was quicker than expected to complete.
- Applications decided solely on the basis of tax and social security data: 84% of applications were decided based on data held by HMRC and/or the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP), meaning that they did not need to provide supporting documentation to evidence their UK residence.
- Converting permanent residence to settled status: Close to 1,000 applicants in phase 2 “mistakenly believed” that they had documented permanent residence or indefinite leave to remain, and were applying to convert this to settled status. Most of these people held a registration certificate – which looks very similar to permanent residence.
- Incorrect decisions: Applicants who have resided in the UK for longer than five years have the choice to appeal a decision to grant them pre-settled rather than settled status. Of the 11 administrative review applications that were received and processed (with 13 more pending), 10 succeeded in securing settled rather than pre-settled status. Of these 10 applicants, nine had originally accepted a grant of pre-settled status when making their application and then provided additional evidence of their eligibility for settled status for their application for administrative review.
- In October 2018, a Settlement Resolution Centre (SRC) was set up to receive calls and emails to support applicants through the EU Settlement Scheme, which currently employs more than 200 staff to support a full week service. During phase 2, more than 15,000 email and telephone enquiries were received. The SRC has been working to develop its knowledge of key behaviours and challenges, and will be factoring this into service and process improvements.