The Home Office have released a number of updates on the EU settlement scheme in the last 2 weeks.
There will be no fee for a settled status application. Applicants who applied during the pilot phase will receive an automatic refund. The money will be paid to the card which paid the fee for the application. Those who have paid the fee should look out for this. Our prior experience is that refunds from the Home Office can be missed and they do sometimes have to be chased.
How is it working so far?
The Settled Status Scheme has been open in a pilot form since last year. It is currently open to those EU nationals who have a biometric passport and EU family members who have a biometric residence permit issued since April 2015.
The Home Office say that they have processed over 150,000 applications, with no refusals. Anecdotally, we have heard that the process is fairly straightforward when the technology works. Most issues have been with the App not working, however this was a pilot phase largely to test the App and therefore some bugs may be expected.
The full scheme will now be opened in phases.
- 30th March- Scheme will open to EU nationals and their family members who are applying from inside the UK. The scheme will also be open for nationals of Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway and Switzerland and their family members who are applying from inside the UK.
- 9th April- Scheme opens for applications from outside the UK.
- 1st May- Scheme opens for Zambrano carers.
Additional Help and Support
The application process for the EU Settlement Scheme is online and requires an Android device with ‘near field communication’ i.e. contactless technology. This is because the biometric chip in the passport can be read and authenticated by the Android device.
For those who do not have this, there will be a number of locations where applicants can take their passports to be authenticated. They will be in the following locations,
- London (Camden)
- London (Hackney)
- London (Southwark)
- Newcastle upon Tyne
Contact details for each location are available here https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/eu-settlement-scheme-id-document-scanner-locations/locations-offering-chip-checker-services . Those wishing to use the service must book an appointment.
The geographical spread of these is clearly limited. For those without an android phone who are not local, it may be cheaper to buy a new phone than pay the travel cost!
There is also additional support for those who have difficulty with using the technology, including those with disabilities. Applicants can attend an ‘Assisted Digital’ location and a range of locations listed here https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/eu-settlement-scheme-assisted-digital-service/assisted-digital-test-location.
Home visits are offered in the locations listed here https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/eu-settlement-scheme-assisted-digital-service/assisted-digital-home-visits .
Overall, the spread of services seems rather odd and quite patchy, particularly in Scotland and Northern Ireland. The system works well for those who have the access to, and ability to use, the online system. However, for those who cannot use it, for instance due to poverty, disability or vulnerability, the support appears patchy and difficult to access. Anybody who struggles with using the internet will have significant difficulty.
What do you get to show ‘settled status’?
One of the more unnerving aspect of this process is that it is electronic only. Applicants do not get any physical evidence of their status. While they do receive a grant letter, this states on it that it is not evidence of immigration status. There is no vignette or stamp in a passport and no biometric residence permit.
Employers who have to do ‘right to work’ checks will have to use a new online system here https://www.gov.uk/check-job-applicant-right-to-work . This is separate from the ‘Employer Checking Service’ which is used if an employee has an application outstanding with the Home Office.
The applicant must give you an access code, which is generated by the Home Office. You use that code to access their record. Of course, such a system is only as good as the technology and record keeping behind it. As with many of these systems operated by the Home Office, when they work, they work well. However, as soon as something unexpected or unusual happens, it can become very difficult to resolve.