My right hon. Friend the Home Secretary is today laying before Parliament a statement of changes in immigration rules (HC 1919). The changes provide for the full opening of the EU settlement scheme from 30 March 2019 for resident EU citizens and their family members to obtain the UK immigration status which they will require in order to remain here permanently after the UK’s withdrawal from the European Union.
The Government are also laying before Parliament today two negative procedure statutory instruments: the Immigration and Nationality (Fees) (Refund, Waiver and Amendment) (EU Exit) Regulations 2019, which provide for no application fee for the scheme as announced by the Prime Minister on 21 January 2019, and the Immigration (European Economic Area Nationals) (EU Exit) Regulations 2019, which, in part, make changes associated with the scheme to other secondary legislation.
Protecting EU citizens’ rights remains our number one priority. We value the contribution they make to the social, economic and cultural fabric of the UK and we want them to stay. The best way to protect their rights, and those of UK nationals resident in the EU, is for the UK to reach a withdrawal agreement with the EU. However, as a responsible Government we are planning for all scenarios. In response to the proposal put forward by my hon. Friend the Member for South Leicestershire (Alberto Costa), my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Exiting the European Union has written to the EU about the possibility of a joint UK/EU commitment to preserving the citizens’ rights part of the withdrawal agreement in the event the UK withdraws from the EU without a deal. We await their response. The full opening of the EU settlement scheme will enable EU citizens and their family members to secure their UK immigration status whether a deal is reached or not.
In the light of the successful testing of the online application process for the scheme during the private beta test phases from August to December 2018, in which we received and processed more than 30,000 applications, a public beta test phase of the scheme began on 21 January 2019. This phase is open to resident EU citizens (and their EU citizen family members) with a valid passport, and to their non-EU citizen family members with a valid biometric residence card. In this public beta phase, we received more than 120,000 applications by the end of February 2019, enabling us to test the system at a greater scale than previous phases.
By the end of February 2019, more than 105,000 of these applications had been concluded, with 71% granted settled status, the rest granted pre-settled status and none refused. 75% of these applicants received their decision within three days and 80% of those who provided feedback found the online application process easy, or fairly easy, to complete. A report on the public beta test phase will be published after its conclusion on 30 March 2019.
This means that, since the opening of the initial private beta test phase on 28 August 2018, we had, by the end of February 2019, received more than 150,000 applications under the scheme, of which 135,000 (nearly 90%) had already been concluded. Of these concluded cases, 71% were granted settled status, with the rest granted pre-settled status and none refused.
The Government therefore intend to go ahead, as planned, with the full opening of the EU settlement scheme from 30 March 2019. The immigration rules for the scheme contained in the new appendix EU include the following changes to the scope of the scheme:
Resident citizens of the other European Economic Area (EEA) countries (Iceland, Liechtenstein and Norway) and of Switzerland, and their family members, will also be able to apply for UK immigration status under the scheme, in line with the citizens’ rights agreements reached with those countries;
EEA and Swiss citizens and certain family members will from 9 April 2019 be able to apply under the scheme from outside the UK, so that they can obtain status under it, based on their previous residence in the UK, without needing to travel here in order to make an online application;
The scheme will be open to the family members of British citizens who were exercising their free movement rights under EU law before returning to the UK (“Surinder Singh” cases), and to the family members of certain dual British/EU citizens (“Lounes” cases);
The scheme will be open to others lawfully resident in the UK by virtue of a “derivative right” to reside, based on wider EU law. These are “Chen carers” (the primary carer of a self-sufficient EEA citizen child), “Ibrahim and Teixeira” cases (a child of a former EEA citizen worker who is in education in the UK and their primary carer), and “Zambrano carers” (the primary carer of a British citizen child or dependent adult);
Residence in the Crown dependencies (Guernsey, Jersey and the Isle of Man) will be counted as UK residence for the purposes of the scheme, consistent with the wider operation of the common travel area;
EEA and Swiss citizens previously resident in the UK will be able to count as UK residence for the purposes of the scheme time spent on an overseas posting as a Crown servant, as will a partner or child of any nationality accompanying such a person or accompanying a member of HM Forces on an overseas posting. Such EEA and Swiss citizens have made a strong commitment to the UK by serving overseas in this way, or by accompanying someone who is doing so, and this should not disadvantage them under the scheme; and
Consistent with the basis on which the scheme will operate in a “no-deal” scenario, provision is made for the “specified date”, by which EEA and Swiss citizens will need to be continuously resident in the UK and certain relevant family relationships will need to be formed, to be 29 March 2019 in that scenario rather than 31 December 2020.
The new appendix EU also includes the following changes to the application process for the scheme:
There will be no application fee under the scheme, as the Prime Minister announced on 21 January 2019;
In certain circumstances, an application under the scheme will be made on a paper application form rather than through the online application process, including in “derivative right” cases where the applicant will need to provide additional information to that generally required under the scheme, and in exceptional circumstances, where provision of a paper application form complements the assisted digital support available for applicants who need help to complete the online application process;
Applicants in the UK will be able to rely on a wider range of documents as proof of their identity and nationality: their valid national identity card for an EEA or Swiss citizen, as well as their valid passport, and their valid passport or biometric residence permit for a non-EEA/Swiss citizen family member, as well as their valid biometric residence card;
There will be scope for applicants to submit their identity document by post to be checked and returned to them quickly, as an alternative, for EEA/Swiss citizens and for non-EEA/Swiss citizens with a biometric residence card, to use the identity verification app or visit one of the locations at which they can be helped to use this (of which there will be at least 50 across the UK by 30 March 2019); and
There will also be scope for the Secretary of State to accept alternative evidence of identity and nationality where the applicant is unable to provide the required document due to circumstances beyond their control or to compelling practical or compassionate reasons.
This statement of changes in immigration rules makes the following other provision associated with the EU settlement scheme:
Consistent with the draft withdrawal agreement with the EU, the new appendix EU (Family permit) provides for a non-EEA/Swiss citizen who is the family member of an EEA/Swiss citizen with status granted under the EU settlement scheme to apply for an entry clearance to join that EEA/Swiss citizen in the UK, or to accompany them here, whether for a short stay or to make an application under the scheme in the UK;
Changes to part 1 and part 9 of the rules to ensure that the grounds for the revocation of an entry clearance granted under appendix EU (Family permit), the refusal or cancellation of leave to enter held by virtue of a person having arrived in the UK with such an entry clearance, and the cancellation or curtailment of leave to enter or remain granted under appendix EU are consistent with the EU law public policy tests for conduct committed before 31 December 2020 (or before 29 March 2019 in a “no-deal” scenario) and with UK suitability provisions for conduct thereafter; and
Enables an application for administrative review of a decision under the scheme to be made outside the UK as well as within the UK, reflecting the scope for overseas applications under the scheme.
The full opening of the EU settlement scheme from 30 March 2019 will provide a straightforward and user-friendly means for resident EEA and Swiss citizens and their family members to remain here permanently. They make a huge contribution to our economy and society and the full opening of the scheme is tangible evidence that we want them to stay.
Further information about the EU settlement scheme is available on gov.uk and was summarised in my 12 February 2019 letter to colleagues. This contained links to a range of further communications material about the scheme which community organisations and others may find helpful, and is available at: https://www. gov.uk/government/publications/eu-settlement-scheme-update