EU Nationals

Can EU Settlement Scheme applications still be submitted even though the deadline has passed?

By Amer Zaman

on March 30, 2024

Read Time: 8 Minutes

With more than three years having now passed since the end of the UK’s Brexit transition period on 31st December 2020, some observers could almost be forgiven for presuming that the EU Settlement Scheme must be “old news”; after all, the deadline for most people to apply for the scheme was 30th June 2021.

But of course, the full situation isn’t quite as straightforward as that. The scheme is still open to applications from people who can show they have “reasonable grounds” for submitting their application at this late stage.

You might be less than sure, however, whether you have such “reasonable grounds” for your own prospective EU Settlement Scheme application, or what else you will need to do if you apply. Below, we have outlined the key things you should know.

What is the EU Settlement Scheme?

The EU Settlement Scheme (EUSS) was first opened in March 2019, as part of the UK’s preparations to leave the European Union. Brexit officially occurred on 31st January 2020, although a transition period then took place until 31st December that year, during which the UK agreed to comply with the bloc’s rules as if it was still a member state.

The intention of the EUSS was – and is – to help Europeans living in the UK to secure their residency status, thereby giving them the continued right to reside and work in the country after Brexit.

The scheme is aimed at EU, other European Economic Area (EEA), and Swiss citizens who were living in the UK before the end of the aforementioned Brexit transition period, as well as their family members, and the relatives of certain British citizens returning with them from the EEA or Switzerland. Those who are successful with their EU Settlement Scheme application are granted either “settled” or “pre-settled” status. According to UK Home Office statistics, as of 30th September 2023, there had been 7.6 million applications to the EUSS, with 6.2 million people estimated to have applied. Of these, some 5.7 million people had obtained a grant of status.

Is it too late to apply for the EUSS?

For most people, the deadline to apply to the EU Settlement Scheme was 30th June 2021. However, this deadline does not apply to those who already have pre-settled status and are applying for settled status. Some other people were also subject to later deadlines to apply.

So, you will still be permitted to apply to the EUSS if either of the following is true:

  • The deadline for you to apply is after 30th June 2021
  • You have “reasonable grounds” for why you’re submitting your application now, rather than by the deadline or in the period since the deadline passed

To give an example of a situation in which an EUSS application can be made after the 30th June 2021 deadline that applied to most people, if you are seeking to join a family member who was residing in the UK by 31st December 2020, your deadline will be based on when you arrive in the UK, as long as the following two things are true:

  • You were their family member by 31st December 2020 (this is not applicable to children born or adopted after this date)
  • The family relationship still exists at the time of your application

If the EUSS application deadline that applied to you has passed, you will need to be able to show “reasonable grounds” for applying this late. You will also need to be eligible for the scheme. For most people, this means they need to be either:

  • From the EU, Switzerland, Norway, Iceland, or Liechtenstein, and they started living in the UK by 31st December 2020, or  
  • The family member of someone from the EU, Switzerland, Norway, Iceland, or Liechtenstein who started living in the UK by 31st December 2020 and has settled or pre-settled status.

There is a range of other circumstances in which someone may be eligible for the EUSS and still permitted to apply. To learn more about these, as well as your other potential options for moving to and/or staying in the UK, please feel free to call our experts in UK immigration law on 0208 215 0053.

What constitutes ‘reasonable grounds’ for a late EUSS application?  

Late applications for the EU Settlement Scheme are still possible for those who can satisfy the eligibility criteria, and who can show “reasonable grounds” setting out why they were unable to apply by the deadline or in the time since the deadline passed.

If you apply on this basis, the Home Office will expect you to provide evidence for your reasonable grounds. This evidence must explain the reason, or reasons, for your inability to submit an EUSS application sooner, covering the entire period since the passing of the deadline.

According to the UK Government, the following are examples of situations that may constitute “reasonable grounds” for a delayed EUSS application:

  • Your parent, guardian, or local authority didn’t apply to the scheme for you when you were a child, and you have only recently been made aware of the need to apply
  • You have a serious medical condition which prevented you from applying
  • You do not have sufficient physical or mental capacity to submit an application
  • You have significant, ongoing care or support needs
  • You have experienced domestic violence, or been in a controlling or abusive relationship
  • You arrived in the UK on a study or work visa, and became eligible for the EUSS during your time in the country
  • Another compelling practical or compassionate reason

In August 2023, the Home Office put in place a rule that prevented those who had mistakenly applied after the EU referendum for permanent residency cards from making a late EUSS application on the basis that they had not been aware of the specially created scheme.

The department had removed “lack of awareness” of the EUSS as a reasonable ground for a late application. However, following an outcry from campaigners, it emerged in January 2024 that the Home Office had set out new guidance for caseworkers, informing them that late applications from holders of permanent residency cards were “reasonable grounds” for a late application to the scheme.

Although this change was reported at the time as a “U-turn”, Home Office insiders were quoted as saying by The Guardian that the guidance had not been “reversed”, but had instead simply been “updated” and made clearer.

Should I apply to the EU Settlement Scheme?

Not all European nationals necessarily need to apply to the EUSS in order to retain residency and/or working rights in the UK. You might, for instance, already have “indefinite leave to enter” (ILE) or “indefinite leave to remain” (ILR) status. However, some ILE or ILR status holders might still choose to apply to the EUSS.

Irish citizens, meanwhile, can move freely between Ireland and the UK and enjoy associated rights and privileges, including the right to work and study in the UK, as well as to access social welfare and health services. These rights arise from the longstanding Common Travel Area (CTA) arrangement between the UK, the Crown Dependencies (Bailiwick of Jersey, Bailiwick of Guernsey, and the Isle of Man), and Ireland, which predates both UK and Irish membership of the EU and is unconnected to the EU or the EUSS.

It will also not be necessary for you to apply for the EUSS if you have a Frontier Worker permit, or are eligible for one, provided that you continue living outside of the UK while working in the UK. This permit is aimed at people who wish to work in the UK while living in another country. If you have been considering a late application to the EUSS, but are unsure whether you would be entitled to apply or whether it would be the right decision for you, please feel free to contact our experts in UK immigration law. We will be able to advise on your particular situation.

What happens if you do not apply for the EU Settlement Scheme?

If you are a European living in the UK and have not yet applied to the EU Settlement Scheme (and do not have any other status that would protect your rights, such as “indefinite leave to enter” or “indefinite leave to remain”), you may not have the right to continue residing in the UK.

This could have extremely serious consequences for you. It could mean you are at risk of losing your home, your job, and your right to access services such as healthcare and benefits. You might even be at risk of removal from the UK.

The good news is that you can protect your rights in the UK by applying to the EUSS and receiving a certificate of application. This protection will remain until you receive a decision on your application or the outcome of an appeal.

In the meantime, you can use your certificate of application as proof of your rights in the UK – including to rent, work, claim benefits, or use NHS services. You can look at your certificate of application online on the GOV.UK website, and depending on how you applied, you can also expect to receive a copy of the certificate via email or in the post.

What steps should European nationals in the UK take now?

Here at Cranbrook Legal, our specialists in UK immigration law would be pleased to hold a free consultation with you, and to discuss what “reasonable grounds” you may have for only applying to the EU Settlement Scheme now. We can also help you explore any alternative options you may have for relocating to and/or staying in the UK. Please feel free to call 0208 215 0053 for further information and advice.

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