What employers need to know about the UK settled status scheme

The introduction of the new settled status will mark the end of freedom of movement for EU citizens in the UK. Anne Morris explains what it means for employers and employees

From 1 July 2021, EU citizens and their family members in the UK must apply to hold lawful UK immigration status under a new ‘settlement scheme’.

An ‘implementation period’ will run between 29 March 2019 and 31 December 2020, during which time there will be no change to EU citizens’ current rights. 

At the end of the implementation period in December 2020, settled status will replace permanent residence status. 

EU citizens and their family members with settled status will have the right to remain in the UK indefinitely and have access, as they currently do, to healthcare, pensions and other benefits in the UK. 

Until the new status has been passed into law, the rights and status of EU citizens in the UK remain unchanged. This includes the attainment of permanent residence status after five continuous years of exercising Treaty rights, and the requirement for proof of permanent residence as a mandatory prerequisite for EEA nationals applying to naturalise as British citizens. 

Timeline for implementation 

EU citizens and family members living in the UK for five continuous years by 31 December 2020 will have until 30 June 2021 to make a settled status application to remain in the UK indefinitely. 

Those who are in the UK by 31 December 2020 but have not attained the requisite five-year qualifying period will be eligible for ‘pre-settled status’. With this, they are permitted to stay in the UK until they have reached the five-year point, when they should apply for full settled status. 

Close family members will be able to join an EU citizen relative in the UK after the end of the implementation period, provided the relationship existed on 31 December 2020 and continues to exist when the individual comes to the UK. This includes spouses, children and other dependants, as well as future children.

Applications will cost £65 for those aged 16 or over and £32.50 for children under 16. 

The government has emphasised that the scheme’s application process will be streamlined and user-friendly. Existing government data such as HMRC records will be used to minimise the evidentiary burden on applicants and Home Office caseworkers are being afforded substantial discretion to enable smoother processing.

Those who already hold a valid permanent residence or indefinite leave to remain document will be able to transfer to settled status free of charge.

Employer considerations

For UK employers, the new settled status raises a number of considerations. EEA national personnel may have questions about what to do and whether they qualify for the new scheme, or they may wish to secure permanent residence status before the new system comes into force. Ensuring your workforce has access to up-to-date information will help to inform and reassure them of any concerns. 

With the new scheme will come an inevitable need to police EU citizens’ immigration status. We expect this will fall to UK employers as part of their Right to Work document checks, following an update to the Home Office’s lists of acceptable documents.

From an HR compliance perspective, now is a good time for employers to ensure all relevant organisational policies and processes (recruitment, onboarding) are compliant with Right to Work duties and do not discriminate against individuals on the basis of nationality, and that relevant personnel are adequately trained and skilled to perform the document checks correctly. 

Take advice if you are concerned about the impact of the new settled scheme or your organisation’s immigration compliance. 

Anne Morris is an immigration solicitor and managing director of UK immigration law firm DavidsonMorris