Groups welcome important policy U-turn protecting EU citizens applying after June deadline
Home Office announces that people applying late to now-closed EU Settlement Scheme will have rights protected while application is determined
06 August 2021
The Home Office announced today that people who make late applications to the EU Settlement Scheme (EUSS) will have temporary protection while their application is determined.
The deadline for applying to the EUSS was 30 June and, as we reported on EIN in June, there have been widespread concerns over the uncertain status of potentially many thousands of people who failed to apply in time.
Announcing the new policy today, the Home Office said: "The Home Office has put in place comprehensive arrangements to enable those with reasonable grounds for missing the deadline to apply to the EUSS. While the numbers applying late have been small compared to pre-deadline application numbers, to provide further reassurance to late applicants the government will protect their rights until their application and any appeal is decided.
"The government will also take a similar approach with joining family members, who will have temporary protection for three months after their arrival in the UK and pending the outcome of an EUSS application made during that period (and of any appeal)."
New guidance for employers published by the Home Office today explained: "On 6 August 2021, the government announced temporary protection for more applicants to the EUSS. This means that those who apply from 1 July, and joining family members, will continue to have their rights protected while their application is determined.
"Late applicants and joining family members will now be able to take up new employment while they await the outcome of their application. Home Office guidance remains that where a prospective employee has a Certificate of Application (CoA) confirming a valid application to the EUSS made on or after 1 July, employers should verify this with the Home Office Employer Checking Service (ECS)."
The Home Office added that it would publish updated detailed guidance for employers in due course.
Professor Charlotte O'Brien of the University of York, who specialises in EU social law and citizenship, said: "This is a huge, important u-turn, and should avoid some of the disastrous consequences many of us have been warning about (including in our [EU Rights and Brexit Hub] report on the EUSS)."
The campaign group the3million, which represents and advocates on behalf of EU migrants in the UK, said on Twitter that it had consistently called for the Government to protect those who apply late to the EUSS and it would be closely monitoring the changes being made today.
The group noted that the changes will provide important and much-needed protections for those making late applications: "Without today's decision, someone who finds out too late that they should've applied to the EU Settlement Scheme would've lost their right to work, rent, benefits, leave and re-enter the UK until their status is granted. Which could be MONTHS after they submit an application. … Now when someone finds out they should've applied, they can make a late application, and have the right to work, rent, etc while they wait for a decision."
Luke Piper, head of policy at the3million, told Politico: "This is good news but more needs to be done to reach out and encourage people to apply."
Whilst it does not reflect today's policy announcement, the Public Law Project last week published a useful new briefing on the law applicable to EU nationals residing in the UK, or who arrive in the UK, after the end of the Brexit transition period. It reflects the law as at 29 July 2021
You can read the 13-page briefing here.
Last month, the House of Lords European Affairs Committee published a comprehensive 71-page report on EU citizens' rights after Brexit, which raised concerns about the status of elderly and vulnerable EU citizens in the UK who may have missed the EUSS deadline.
The Committee stated in its report: "We are concerned by the low proportion of applications from older EU citizens, who are more vulnerable to digital exclusion: just 2% of all applications to the Settlement Scheme are from over-65s. Some witnesses suggested that this may indicate low take-up. We call on the Government to explain whether it shares these concerns, and if so, what steps it intends to take to ensure that over-65s are supported in making late applications."