Applying for settled status: why employers should be concerned

The situation

EU nationals who wish to stay in the UK post Brexit must apply for settled status – equivalent to permanent residency. This will give them the right to live, work and study in the UK. They’ll be able to access state benefits such as pensions and use public services such as the NHS, with settled status also providing a route into British citizenship.

This differs to pre-settled status; where individuals who will not have five 5 years’ residency in the UK by 30th December this year, can register themselves so they can apply for settled status after five years of residency. However, pre-settled status technically only allows for a further five years of residence from the date the status is granted, and so is therefore less secure than settled status. You can find out more about settled status in my previous blog here.

Last week, it was reported that over 2.7 million EU citizens currently residing in the UK had applied for settled status – of which 2.45 million decisions had been made, with all but six applicants granted either settled or pre-settled status (1).

The challenge

It is estimated that 3.5 million EU citizens reside in the UK, meaning over 700,000 are yet to apply and there still remains a risk of people not registering in time (1).

What this means for EU citizens

If you wish to reside permanently, it’s important to apply

It is predicted that if the other 700,000 citizens all do apply, more than 14,000 applications would be submitted every week before the end of the year (1).

Vulnerable citizens, including those who are elderly, disabled or do not have a permanent address, can also get extra support when applying to the EU Settlement Scheme. Further information can be found here on GOV.UK.

Carefully complete the application

It’s important that individuals know their rights and what status to apply for. If they’re eligible for settled status, they must make sure they select this on the form (1). Pre-settled status is a lot less secure and could impact their rights.

Physical documentation

Last week, ‘the European Parliament raised concerns that recipients of settled or pre-settled status do not get a physical document confirming their status – potentially putting them at a disadvantage when it comes to renting a property or starting a new job’ (1).

But on 17th January, Guy Verhofstadt, Brexit coordinator for the European Parliament, stated he had since secured confirmation from Brexit secretary Stephen Barclay that recipients of settled or pre-settled status would be able to download a printable document (1).

Missing the deadline

Verhofstadt also indicated that ‘it had been agreed that, even after the transition period, there would be no automatic deportation of EU citizens who had not applied for settled status’ (1). It was also reported there could be the possibility to apply for settled status after the grace period if EU citizens ‘submitted reasons why they missed the initial deadline’ (1).

There will always be some people who are unaware, but this in no reason to leave it too late and risk not being granted settled status.

What this means for employers

If you haven’t already, you must start to advise your EU workers

Whilst there is still uncertainty over Brexit and future immigration processes, employers must not let this stop them from advising EU nationals who are employees. This is particularly vital in the case of a no-deal Brexit at the end of the transition period (1). If you have any employees who are EU nationals it could be worthwhile alerting them to the deadline and the possible delays as the December deadline approaches, you wouldn’t want employees distracted by the stress of waiting on a decision if that’s during your peak trading time.

The EU Settlement Scheme toolkit includes the information you need to know and communication materials to help you make a start.

Plan for after Brexit

Unsure where to start? My previous blog takes a look at five areas to consider as part of your post-Brexit planning for EU workers. For settled status workers, you can also find my actions and advice for employers here.

Keep compliant

It’s important employers keep a finger on the pulse as immigration plans develop, to ensure they continue to be compliant. Jonathan Beech, Managing Director at Migrate UK says: “should the current points-based system work, sponsorship and licensing process still be in place; existing sponsors must be compliant with the rules to avoid having licenses removed for non-compliance,” adding that suspension or revocation of a licence could mean losing out on both EU and non-EU employees (1).

Resources and sources

(1) https://www.peoplemanagement.co.uk/news/articles/thousands-eu-citizens-still-yet-apply-settled-status

EU Settlement Scheme: employer toolkit – helpful information for both employers and employees, including communication material