There is ‘considerable cause for concern’ over the 30 June EU Settlement Scheme deadline and the potential failure of UK-based workers from EU countries to have applied for it.
The approaching deadline for EU workers and their families to apply for permanent residency in the UK under the EU Settlement Scheme (Euss) has focused attention on the need for employers to safeguard workers or face worsening staff shortages.
A newly published report has stated that: “A number of recent studies give considerable cause for concern with regard to the number of EEA+ nationals unaware of the scheme, or of the deadline.”
The York University/Economic and Social Research Council study goes on to describe the 30 June as a “timebomb” after which people and businesses could face “imminent problems, pitfalls and risks”. It said: “It is now clear that a significant minority of EEA+ nationals will fail to register by the deadline. If they do not qualify as having a good reason for missing the deadline, they automatically and irreversibly lose their right to reside.”
Any EU citizen who has not applied to the EU Settlement Scheme by 30 June will be classed as an illegal immigrant and could face removal from the UK. Organisations employing EU citizens without settled status, or without claims being processed, could also face severe penalties for using illegal labour, despite having made statutory right to work checks in line with Home Office rules.
Right to work in the UK
The York University study (The Status of EU Nationals: Emergency Measures Needed) cited a Joint Council for the Welfare of Immigrants report from January this year that found one in seven care workers did not know, or were not sure what the Euss was, and one in three did not know about the deadline.
And the Social Market Foundation found similarly high rates of lack of awareness among lower skilled EU workers late last year. It published a report in September 2020 finding that “Barely half of interviewees were aware of the EU Settlement Scheme. Even among those intending to stay in the UK past the cut off point for applying to the Scheme, over 40% said they were unaware of it.”
The York University researchers asserted that it was not clear from the new government guidance on the deadline that not being aware of the scheme or the need to apply would be enough to be considered reasonable grounds for a late application. They proposed that ministers should create a coherent, consistent right to apply after the deadline and stated that, currently, different interpretations, of the “incomplete” guidance would “increase the likelihood of administrative injustice”.
A “declaratory system of residence rights for EEA+ nationals, similar to that employed by 13 EU member states towards UK nationals”, should be established the report said, which would effectively scrap the 30 June deadline.
Report co-author, Prof Charlotte O’Brien wrote: “Thirteen EU Member States including Germany have decided that UK nationals who were resident before 31 December 2020 do not need to apply for a new status, and so have not set any deadline. Of the remainder, only six have set a deadline as early as 30 June 2021, the earliest the Withdrawal Agreement permits. Two have gone for 30 September 2021, and six for 31 December 2021.”
Visa and immigration expert Yash Dubal, director of A Y & J Solicitors, said businesses that employed EU citizens needed to familiarise themselves with the regulatory requirements urgently.
He said: “With many businesses already experiencing acute staffing shortages due to the pandemic, it is important for employers to encourage any staff who wish to continue working in the UK and have not applied to the EU Settlement Scheme to do so.”
Imagine if you did not renew your passport before it expired, and so lost all right to ever have that passport again. Except instead of just losing your right to travel abroad, you lost your right to stay in your home, with your family and friends” – Professor Charlotte O’Brien, York University
Dubal urged employers who relied on migrant workers, or plan to use them in future, to register to become an official Home Office sponsor.
“Businesses and organisations in the UK must be registered sponsor licence holders to employ migrants under the skilled worker route.”
Since the settlement scheme launched in March 2019, more than 5.4m applications have been received, more than was expected.
The York University study warned that those who failed to apply would be exposed to the UK’s hostile’ immigration environment, removal, and the complete loss of rights.
Prof O’Brien wrote: “Imagine if you did not renew your passport before it expired, and so lost all right to ever have that passport again. Except instead of just losing your right to travel abroad, you lost your right to stay in your home, with your family and friends.
“Those who miss the deadline will become, overnight, unauthorised/illegal migrants.”
Her comments were amplified by news this week that an Italian diplomat had warned the UK over recent treatment of EU nationals visiting the UK for work purposes.
Benedetto Della Vedova, the Italian undersecretary for foreign affairs told immigration minister Kevin Foster that locking up EU citizens who travelled to the UK for a job interview or who had fallen foul of post-Brexit immigration rules was unacceptable.
He told Politico: “We made it clear to the Home Office and to minister Foster that we don’t consider what happened to be acceptable, and we hope that in the future cases like these will be treated in a different manner.”