Is it difficult to apply for permanent residence in the UK as an EU citizen?

On May 14, the Home Office launched a new statement of changes to the Immigration Rules including the EU Settlement Scheme.

The EU Settlement Scheme is still open for EU nationals and their family members to register their right to remain in the UK post the current Brexit Transition Period. Despite the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on migration, the deadline for applying has not changed, and all applications must be made by 30 June 2021.

EU nationals and their non-EU family members who arrive in the UK before 31 December 2020 must apply, regardless of whether or not they already have an EU residence permit document.

Changes are mostly positive.

For example, by expanding the scope of the EU reconciliation plan, family members of Northern Irish families can apply for the EU Settlement Scheme.

Secondly, victims of domestic abuse are also affected. If a family member’s relationship with an EEA citizen breaks down permanently as a result of domestic violence or abuse, this, coupled with their own continuous residence in the UK, will be recognised as part of their application.

The changes also mean that a family member applying to the EU  Settlement Scheme may be required to provide a certified English translation of a document as evidence of the relevant family relationship.

Apart from that, the Home Office may ask an applicant to provide a certified English translation (or a Multilingual Standard Form) of a document which is not in English.

Also, the Home Office has decided to make it more difficult for European residents to become British citizens. EU citizens with settled status who apply for naturalisation may now have to provide evidence that they have been living in the UK legally, according an update to government nationality policy released on 15 May.

Here are some policies.

An EEA or Swiss citizen or their family members who have a 5 years’ continuous qualifying period of residence in the UK and Islands when they apply to the EU Settlement Scheme will be eligible for settled status… However, this grant of settled status (also know as indefinite leave to enter or remain) will not confirm that they were here lawfully under the EEA Regulations during that time, as defined by the British Nationality Act 1981 as this is not a requirement of the EU Settlement Scheme. You may therefore need to request further information from the applicant to demonstrate this.

You must assess whether the individual has been here lawfully during their 3 or 5 year residential period prior to pre-settled status or settled status, by considering on the balance of probabilities whether they were here:

as a qualified person (such as a worker, student, self-employed, selfsufficient, retired or incapacitated person)

as the family member of such a person.

Evidence of this can include API data or documents previously submitted to satisfy their lawful residence. Where appropriate, you must also be satisfied that the person was lawfully in the UK, with comprehensive sickness insurance (CSI).

Which means one of the conditions for becoming a British citizen is that you must live in the UK for 5 years (or 3 years if you marry a British). The time for violating immigration laws in the UK is not counted. But when people with settled status come to apply for citizenship, the Home Office is now saying that the right to reside issue must be dealt with in their application. Simply having settled status is not enough. Settled status will serve as proof of being free of immigration time restrictions, but will not do in terms of showing that the person’s residence up to the point of getting settled status was in accordance with immigration law.

Following the introduction of the EU Settlement Scheme you may increasingly see applications from EEA or Swiss nationals who have not fully complied with additional requirements under the EEA regulations, such as having comprehensive sickness insurance where they needed it, and who may therefore have been in breach of immigration law. When considering such applications you should take into account all the facts surrounding such a breach and make a full assessment about whether discretion should be exercised in their favour.

Many people without comprehensive sickness insurance are plagued by this situation.

All in all, for Europeans to know their exact legal status, they will need to provide enough evidence to apply to become a British citizen. In contrast, if the person has previously obtained a permanent residence card, it will be different from the permanent status, and the card will be used as proof of legal residence for five years. But Europeans can also rely on the right of abode, because they can obtain a predetermined or resolved status without proof. 

Home Office support is still in place for individuals currently making applications. The Settlement Resolution Centre telephone service has now resumed (after briefly being suspended as a result of the coronavirus pandemic). Individuals can also submit queries relating to the scheme via the online form.

For advice relating to the EU Settlement Scheme, including advice on eligibility or making an application, please don’t hesitate to contact us.

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