The UK’s labour shortage is being exacerbated by the high number of EU nationals who have been denied settled status, many of whom could face removal.
Since the 30 March 2019 launch of the EU Settlement Scheme (Euss), 226,900 EU nationals have had their application for settled status rejected, according to Home Office figures.
Many will have left the UK already, to work on the Continent or further afield, but an unknown number remain in the UK and may be employed in areas of the economy where there are labour shortages. These people could face removal from the UK as they exhaust the application and appeals process.
Out of the 226,990 denied applications, the Home Office “refused” 145,660, because applicants had failed to meet eligibility criteria. The remaining 81,330 applications were declared “invalid”, most likely because applicants didn’t provide the necessary ID and because of errors.
Immigration experts at London law firm Bates Wells said a further complication was that people who came to the UK as a child may not have documents, such as passports, to prove their identity – an echo of the Windrush scandal.
EU nationals can still make applications provided they give a reason for why the application has been made after the 30 June 2021 deadline. However, there is no guarantee that they will be treated more leniently by the Home Office on their second application, especially if the lack of documentary evidence cannot be rectified.
Bates Wells said in such cases, the EU national was likely to need to go through what are often arduous court proceedings. Given delays at the tribunals due to Covid-related disruption, appellants faced months of uncertainty as to whether they’ll be able to remain in the UK.
Romanians accounted for 79,220 of denied applications – 35% of the total number denied. The country with the second highest number of denied applications was Poland, with 26,830 (12% of the total figure), followed by Bulgaria at 24,440 (11% of all denied applications).
Bates Wells said the Home Office would continue to show lenience to EU nationals making their applications with refusal only being a last resort.
Matthew James, associate at Bates Wells, says: “Many of those refused will need assistance in proving that they have the right to status in the UK, because they will not have the correct formalised documents to show this.”
“Even so, many people who have made the UK their home and contributed to our economy face the risk of losing the right to live and work here with potentially years of uncertainty.”
Where did applications come from?
Overall, there has been 5,717,720 applications received from EU nationals, 62,020 received from other EEA and Swiss nationals and 443,380 received from non-EEA nationals. The scheme has attracted most applications from Romanian nationals (1,133,980), Polish nationals (1,124,930) and Italian nationals (560,720). People from Portugal (408,000) and Spain (346,620) submitted the fourth and fifth highest number of applications.
The fewest number of rejections was experienced by Luxembourg nationals – just 20 out of 1,770 applications were turned down.
As of 30 September 2021, Newham, east London, was the local authority with the highest number of applications to the scheme (146,910).
Immigration using work visa routes has bounced back since 2020 saw an 88% decline in immigration to the UK. According to the Home Office there were 205,528 work-related visas granted in the year ending September 2021 (including dependants). This was a 55% increase on the year ending September 2020, and 9% higher than in the year ending September 2019.
Skilled work, which accounts for 61% of work-related visas granted, saw the largest increase in visa numbers, up 45,866 or 57%. High value, skilled worker, temporary worker and other work visas and exemption routes all increased compared with the previous year, partly thanks to the lifting of Covid-19 travel restrictions. But skilled work and temporary work visas were now higher than pre-Covid 19 levels in the year ending September 2019, the Home Office pointed out.
The new skilled worker routes introduced in late 2020 (skilled work, skilled worker health and care, and intra-company transfer) accounted for 101,712 or 49% of the total work-related visas granted, and made up 81% of all skilled work grants.
Visa and immigration expert Yash Dubal, director of London-based A Y & J Solicitors, said specific relaxations in criteria had helped businesses recruit a wider range of workers.
“The resident labour market test was abolished for the skilled worker route, meaning jobs no longer had to be offered to native workers first. The qualification level was also lowered, which means that employers in more industries are able to turn to the sponsorship system to fulfil their hiring needs,” he said.