Polish, Romanian and Italian nationals sent most applications under settlement scheme, according to Home Office.
About 1 million of the roughly 3 million EU27 citizens living in the U.K. have obtained the right to reside in the country after Brexit through the British government’s new EU settlement scheme.
According to figures released by the Home Office today, 951,700 citizens from European Economic Area countries and Switzerland had obtained settled or pre-settled status (for those who will have been living in the country for five years by December 30, 2020) as of July 31. Home Office Minister Brandon Lewis said registrations hit 1 million in August.
The government launched the scheme at the end of March to ensure citizens of other EU countries living in the country continue to have the right to live, work and have access to public services in the U.K. after Brexit. The scheme is set to replace the permanent residency program, and all Europeans who arrive in Britain before Brexit day would be eligible to apply.
Almost 150,000 Europeans obtained settled status in the month of July alone, as the government stepped up its preparations to leave the EU without a deal.
The highest number of applications received were from Polish (179,800), Romanian (141,200) and Italian (121,600) nationals.
The Home Office is urging Europeans to apply to the scheme by December 31, 2020 if the U.K. leaves the EU without a deal, and by June 30, 2021 if a Brexit deal is ratified.
Catherine Barnard, a professor of EU law and employment law at the University of Cambridge, said that low-skilled workers such as fruit-pickers, who work for multiple U.K. employers, are less likely to apply to the scheme.
“The good news is that people are applying to settled status and actually those who have secured work histories are finding it a relatively easy process,” she said.
“The bad side that is that of course the majority still haven’t done it and, in my experience talking with EU nationals, some of them don’t appreciate the significance of having to do it. Others who have got very incomplete work histories are worried about being able to prove that they’ve got settled status.”
A spokesman for the Home Office said that the figures are “very positive” and Europeans still have “quite a long time” to apply.
Lewis said the scheme is designed to make it “straightforward” for Europeans and their family members to stay in the country after Britain leaves the EU.
“EU citizens have made incredible contributions to our country — which is why I’m so pleased that over one million people have been granted status, enshrining their rights in law,” he said.
If there IS a Brexit deal agreed?
If there is a Brexit deal, Britain and Brussels have agreed EU nationals can continue arriving, working and settling in the UK more or less as they do now until 31 December 2020.
Anyone who arrives before that date will have the right to apply to stay in the UK permanently.
This will also apply the other way round, for Brits in the other 27 EU nations.
After the 31 December 2020 cutoff date, EU citizens arriving to live in the UK would need to get a work visa. But initial government proposals would allow unlimited “low-skilled” EU immigration until 2025.
EU citizens who have been in the UK for five years or more by 31 December 2020 will be able to apply for “settled status”.
This means they are free to continue living and working in the UK.
People who have not lived in the UK for five years must apply for “pre-settled status”.
This gives them the right to stay until they reach the five year mark. At that point, they must apply again for the right to stay.
The scheme launched fully on 30 March 2019 – which was supposed to be the first day of Brexit.
A trial of nearly 30,000 applicants before January 2019 processed two thirds were approved in three working days and 81% within a week.
While improvements have been made, nearly a quarter of people told the government they found it difficult during previous testing.
There will then be a phased roll-out later this year.
When is the deadline to apply?
The scheme will close to applications on 30 June 2021.
This includes a six-month ‘grace period’ for people who forget to apply or are vulnerable.
The scheme will be free of charge for all applications following a U-turn by the Tory government in January 2019.
If the UK leaves without a deal
The Home Office says it WILL run the EU Settlement Scheme as described above – allowing EU citizens to stay in the UK.
But in the plan that’s been put forward, there will be some important changes. They include:
- The cut-off date for arriving in the UK would be whatever date the UK leaves the EU without a deal.
- The six-month grace period would be axed, meaning the deadline to apply is 31 December 2020 not 30 June 2021.
- ‘Close family’ can only join settled EU citizens in the UK before 29 March 2022. After that, family members would have to apply under the usual UK immigration rules.
- People with a criminal record could find themselves deported more easily as Britain uses UK, not EU thresholds.
- Major EU nations have individually said they’ll allow UK ex-pats to stay, but this could vary by country.
- People from Norway, Iceland and Lichtenstein will also have to apply under the same rules to be able to stay.
During his leadership campaign, Johnson pledged to entrench EU nationals’ rights – saying he regretted that it had not happened immediately after the 2016 referendum.
“I will sort it out immediately and make sure that this issue is properly dealt with, and millions of people can stop worrying,” he said.
And during his first speech to the Commons, he promised: “under this government [EU citizens] will have the absolute certainty of the right to live and remain.”