Here's why you need to know about the EU settlement scheme...

It was one of the most controversial referendums of our time and, with just a 51.9% majority vote, it was one of the closest too.

Since what is now known as the 'Brexit' vote took place in 2016, there is a lot of uncertainty in terms of just how it might play out. One thing is for sure though, whether you voted leave or remain, Brexit is happening.

Here's why you need to know about the EU settlement scheme...

For those looking to stay in the UK after Brexit, the 'EU settlement scheme' was introduced. If some or all of your workforce comes from overseas, it's something you should definitely be aware of. 

So, what is the scheme about and what does it mean for you and your business?

What is the EU settlement scheme?

The EU settlement scheme is a way to process applications of EU (European Union) citizens living and working within the UK after the UK leaves the EU.

The scheme went fully live on 30th March 2019, giving people the chance to remain in the UK if an EU settlement scheme application to the Home Office can be made by 30th June 2021.

Successful applicants will be given a settled or pre-settled status within the UK.

What is the EU settlement scheme pilot?

The EU settlement scheme pilot, or public test phase, is the first phase of the EU citizens settlement scheme. It applies to all EU citizens and their families, other than citizens from Iceland, Lichtenstein, Norway or Switzerland, due to ongoing negotiations.

This scheme requires EU citizens to register for an application, after which they must undergo a criminality check, along with providing proof of identity and residence.

A £65 fee was charged initially to those applying, but this cost has now been scrapped.

When did the EU settlement scheme start?

The EU citizens settlement scheme began its test phase on 21st January 2019, with a full rollout on 30 March 2019.

The settlement scheme is now wholly live and freely available for application by EU, EEA or Swiss citizens.

An application can be registered online using an email address, through the post, or using an Android smartphone application.

The EU settlement scheme for EU nationals after Brexit will continue until 30 June 2021. Be aware, if the UK leaves the EU without a deal you have to apply before 31 December 2020.

Is the EU settlement scheme free?

As mentioned above, the scheme was launched with a fee of £65 for citizens and their families looking to apply for settled status in the UK.

Because children are also required to be registered if they are EU citizens, this was expensive for families and has now been scrapped.

It is now free to apply to the EU scheme and this will remain the case for the lifespan of the EU settlement scheme.

Who is impacted by the EU settlement scheme?

Anyone from the EU who isn’t a UK citizen or dual citizen, but has worked or lived here will be affected by the EU settlement scheme, as well as several other of the non-EU countries. These include Switzerland, Lichtenstein, Norway or Iceland.

With more than three million EU citizens and families living in the UK, the scheme will affect a significant percentage of the population.

This is especially true as EU individuals who are married to a British citizen must still apply to the scheme, as well as any children born in the EU.

How many people have to apply for the EU settlement scheme?

There are now more than three million EU citizens in the UK and each person is required to apply to join the EU settlement scheme separately. Families and children must also be registered.

It should be noted that this only applies to those who want to stay in the UK after leaving the UK.

What do EU nationals think of the EU settlement scheme?

Many EU nationals do not agree with the EU settlement scheme, because they think it could cause issues relating to the separation of families. There is also a risk that people who have lived in the UK for a long time could be asked to leave if they don’t gain settled status.

The UK’s separation from the EU under Brexit has caused lots of complications for EU citizens working in the UK as well as British citizens living and working in the EU potentially in the future.

Does the EU settlement scheme apply to the Irish?

The EU settlement scheme does not apply to Irish citizens.

Based on the UK government’s current policies, Brexit will not have an impact on Irish citizens in any way. This is because the government believes Irish citizens have the general right to live and work in the United Kingdom, in a way that’s separate to the rights of citizens of the EU.

How do you apply for the EU settlement scheme?

An application for the EU settlement scheme can be made quickly and easily.

The application can be filled out using an online form, can be sent by post or can be completed through government app.

Whichever method EU citizens choose to apply, a criminal background check will be required as well as the provision of ID to confirm their citizenship, along with a confirmation of their current address in the UK.

There is now no fee attached to an application, making the scheme even more accessible.

Application for the scheme must be completed for all family members, including children.

What happens to EU nationals after Brexit?

Following Brexit, EU nationals will have the option to apply to the EU settlement scheme to achieve settled or pre-settled status.

In the case of people who have already settled, they will have had to have lived in the country for more than five years before the end of 2020.

Gaining this status provides access to all the same rights as British citizens, including healthcare, benefits, pensions, and education.

Can EU nationals work in the UK after Brexit?

Currently, it has been suggested that a permits system will be put in place for EU citizens wishing to travel and work in the UK – similar to working visa systems found worldwide.

After March 2019, EU workers will have to register to work before a more permanent plan is put in place.

What does the EU settlement scheme mean for employers?

For employers, the EU settlement scheme won’t have an impact on their business until 30th June 2021.

Until that point, there’s no change to the status or rights of EU citizens living anywhere in the UK, and right to work document checks must continue.

Following this date, EU citizens with settled status will have no change to their rights and should be considered lawful.

For EU citizens working without settled status following these deadlines, the same rules apply as to people working illegally in the UK from anywhere else in the world.

What impact does the EU settlement scheme have on your business?

If you’re a UK citizen, the EU settlement scheme will have no impact on your business currently.

For EU citizens applying to the EU settlement scheme, achieving settled status will again grant the same rights as British citizens, allowing businesses to continue.

All companies should keep track of any guidance and information around immigration status following the final deadline.

How can you support EU nationals that work for your business?

Businesses can support their EU national employees by offering information and guidance, including providing awareness of the EU settlement scheme within the workplace.

Other options may include giving practical resources such as immigration workshops for example.

Guiding EU employees and self-employed people through the process and offering them the backup they need to achieve settled or pre-settled status within the dictated time limit can only be a good thing.

Find out more information about the EU Settlement Scheme on the government website.

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