Prime Minister Theresa May yesterday announced that a £65 fee for EU citizens applying for settled status would be scrapped.
The scheme will open fully by 30 March 2019, and the deadline for applying for settled status will be 30 June 2021, or 31 December 2020 if the UK leaves the EU without a deal.
Those who have not yet been resident in the UK for five years are eligible to apply for “pre-settled status”, which they can then change to settled status once five years’ continuous residence has been completed.The government has launched a smartphone app where users can upload documents, answer questions and submit photographs. It has also recruited 1,500 new caseworkers to help deal with applications.
However, think tank British Future has warned that around a third of the 3.5 million EU nationals currently living in the UK could struggle to file the application.
It also claims that even if five per cent of eligible applicants struggle to apply or are rejected, this would equate to 175,000 people living in the UK without status. Groups such as the elderly or those with limited English or IT skills would be most affected.
Before the scrapping of the £65 fee, a number of employers had committed to paying for the EU employees to acquire settled status.
Karendeep Kaur, senior immigration consultant at Migrate UK, still urges employers to consider supporting workers with their applications, but also advised caution:
The most important thing to note is that this will not backdate settled status as per the current EEA permanent residence rules. The benefit of this scheme is that it allows employers and HR professionals to apply early with their workers and spread a sense of security throughout their organisation that they are making steps towards securing a future for them and their family members.
However, this comes with a number of obstacles. Firstly, each applicant must hold a valid passport, and with many EU nationals relying solely on their National ID cards, this would restrict them in applying. Secondly, to start the application process, the migrant must download the Home Office app from Google Play Store or find a location (there are 13 locations) where an Android phone can be used.
Lastly, with there being a huge number of applicants looking to apply, as stated in previous months, it is more than likely that the system will fall over when attempting to process the millions of applications which will undoubtedly be flooding in. However, this is one of the aims of the public test phase – to combat any issues with the system prior to the nationwide launch in March 2019.
A big portion of EU citizens work in the catering industry.
Neil Pattison, Director at UK’s leading hospitality jobs board Caterer.com, commented,
With more than half (57 per cent) of the hospitality industry already feeling early onset Brexit effects such as increased costs and a loss of valuable EU staff, it is encouraging to see the EU Settlement Scheme going live . The hospitality industry has a diverse and vibrant workforce, and the EU Settlement Scheme provides the opportunity for employees to remain in their roles post Brexit. It is promising to see many businesses already leading the way in supporting their EU employees through the transitional Brexit period and as the UK’s largest job board we will continue to support and work with hospitality businesses with a focus on retention and upskilling staff amid growing industry challenges.
Ian Wright CBE, Food and Drink Federation (FDF) Chief Executive, commented,
We welcome today’s announcement that the Government is planning on scrapping the fee associated with the EU Settlement Scheme. The food and drink manufacturing industry employs 117,000 highly valued EU workers, making up almost a third of our workforce, and their contribution to our sector is vital.
FDF was one of the first trade organisations to call for certainty for EU nationals and this is an encouraging development. Further work is now needed to make sure the right to stay and the Settlement Scheme is swiftly and effectively communicated to eligible EU citizens wishing to stay in the UK and that employers are provided with the tools needed to support their workforce.
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