The Home Office recently published an update to its EU Settlement Scheme caseworker guidance for the purpose of providing clarity on the meaning of what constitutes ‘reasonable grounds’ in the case of late applications made to the EU Settlement Scheme. Given the lack of clarity up to this point as to what grounds would be considered reasonable, this has been a long-awaited update. Late applications are those applications made following the end of the ‘grace period’ of 30th June 2021.
The EU Settlement Scheme was introduced as a means of registering all EU, EEA and Swiss citizens present in the UK; granting either pre-settled status, or in the case of those EU/EEA nationals who have completed a qualifying 5-year period of residence, settled status. In most cases this has been a quick, straightforward application.
The deadline for applying is 30th June 2021, which is now fast approaching. Those EU/EEA nationals who have not registered with the scheme by that deadline will thereafter be here unlawfully from 1st July 2021.
So, what of those who miss the ‘required date’ deadline? This could happen for any number of reasons and likely to be a significant number of people who will not have registered by this date.
Whilst provision had been made several months ago to address this situation, the guidance published at the beginning of April seeks to provide further clarification, and specifically on the meaning of “reasonable grounds to apply late”.
Some examples of reasonable grounds for delay in applying are as follows:
- Children (including children in care and care leavers), where a parent, guardian or Local Authority has failed to apply to the EUSS on behalf of the child by the relevant deadline;
- Physical or mental capacity – where a person lacks the physical or mental capacity to apply to the EUSS;
- Serious medical condition or significant medical treatment in the months before or around the time of the deadline, preventing the making of an application;
- Abusive or controlling relationship or situation, where the EEA national has been prevented from applying or was unaware of the need to apply. All factors will be taken into consideration;
- Other compelling practical or compassionate reasons. This last ground provides wider scope for making a late application where an applicant has failed to apply for reasons beyond their control.
- Applications will be considered based on the individual circumstances of the applicant, and as such, the list of good reasons is non-exhaustive.
- Those persons who have been granted pre-settled status who will subsequently need to ‘upgrade’ to settled status prior to its expiry, but fail to do so, may well be able to rely on the ‘reasonable grounds’ set out in the guidance, as this guidance will also apply to them.
While the Home Office appears “for the time being” to be taking a flexible approach by giving applicants the benefit of the doubt when considering late applications, this should not be interpreted as a loosening of the requirement or an extension of the 30th June 2021 deadline; those EU, EEA and Swiss citizens who have not yet registered should be preparing to do so before the deadline.
As the Home Office has also stated, any change in this approach will be reflected in revised guidance.
Although the Home Office has stated that there will be an ‘initial period’ after 30th June 2021 for late applications that will not require reasonable grounds or supporting evidence to be provided, for example, where the applicant was not aware of the need to apply, it is not clear how long this ‘initial period’ will last.
Valentina Euripides April 2021