EU settlement scheme: Home Office condemned as new rules add ‘unnecessary burdens’

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The EU settlement scheme was put in place following the Brexit vote and it allows EU citizens based in the UK to apply for settled or pre-settled status, both of which allow claimants to access UK resources. The scheme has proven to be especially popular in recent months as around five million applications were processed in the lead up to February, four months ahead of the June deadline.

Recently, the Home Office updated the scheme’s rules in light of coronavirus.

In 2020, temporary changes were made to reduce the need for physical checks and meetings.

However, from April 17, employers must do the following if they’re carrying out a temporary adjusted check on applicants:

  • Ask the worker to submit a scanned copy or a photo of their original documents via email or using a mobile app
  • Arrange a video call with the worker – ask them to hold up the original documents to the camera and check them against the digital copy of the documents record the date they made the check and mark it as “adjusted check undertaken on [insert date] due to COVID-19”
  • If the worker has a current Biometric Residence Permit or Biometric Residence Card or has been granted status under the EU Settlement Scheme or the points-based immigration system they can use the online right to work checking service while doing a video call – the applicant must give permission to view their details

May Tania Bowers, the Legal Counsel and Head of Public Policy at The Association of Professional Staffing Companies (APSCo) commented on these changes and warned negative repercussions could be on the horizon: “It’s disappointing that the Home Office has decided to return to the position of employers needing to see original documents to undertake verification checks from 17th May rather than retaining the Covid remote video checks that have worked well over the last year for a longer period.

“We hoped that the Home Office would prioritise the expansion of digital checks, currently only available for checking EU settlement, a process more suitable for the modern world of flexible work.

“There has been a huge amount of time and effort that has gone into adapting the Right to Work verification processes in a remote environment and to return to pre-pandemic systems that do not retain the flexibility that is needed in a hybrid working environment will not help organisations during this recovery period.

“The short deadline for the return to these in-person checks is also a concern for APSCo and its members as, to date, businesses are expecting the ‘work from home if you can’ advice to remain in place into June.

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“In light of this, most organisations are planning a wider return to the office from June onwards in line with Government timeframes to further relax restrictions.

“To introduce these face-to-face/original document verification checks when people are still working remotely and offices are not open is simply unworkable and will only add further unnecessary burdens on already struggling businesses.

“We will be addressing these concerns with the Home Office directly.”

Applicants who are awarded  pre-settled status can stay in the UK for a further five years from the date they got their status.

Beyond this, claimants can apply to switch to settled status once they’re eligible.

This is usually after they’ve lived in the UK, Channel Islands or the Isle of Man for five years in a row.

Those who are awarded settled status may stay in the UK for as long as they’d like.

Additionally, people with settled status may then go on to apply for full citizenship.

It may prove to be the case that more EU citizens apply for the scheme over the coming months as financial uncertainty looms over much of Europe.

In examining the latest vaccine news, Chris Clothier, an investment manager at CG Asset Management, told “I think Europe has a huge number of problems that it is struggling to address.

“Its financial system is essentially somewhere between undercapitalised and bankrupt and therefore not able to provide credit effectively across the EU.

“Secondly they are struggling to mobilise the EU recovery fund, which is one example of how it is very difficult to coordinate member states to get on and get things done.

“I think both the UK and the EU face significant challenges, albeit they are idiosyncratic to each.”

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