A new Statement of Changes to the immigration rules was published on 4 March 2021. This makes various changes to the immigration rules, introducing a new Graduate route and making minor changes to other types of visa. Changes are also being made to the EU Settlement Scheme (EUSS).
As most readers of this blog will be aware, the EU Settlement Scheme is the UK’s answer to the question – What happens to EEA nationals in the UK after Brexit? The answer: they must all apply for status under the EU Settlement Scheme by 30 June 2021. The Statement of Changes makes several changes to this Scheme (which has already been amended numerous times since being introduced in early 2019).
Broadly speaking, the changes are a result of two things:
- The end of EU free movement law in the UK a.k.a the Immigration (European Economic Area) Regulations 2016. These Regulations were repealed on 1 January 2021 however continue in an amended form until 30 June 2021 and, where the context requires it, can continue to apply after 30 June 2021.
- The application deadline of 30 June 2021. Various changes are being made to take account of the fact that some people may miss this deadline. An application can be made after 39 June 2021 where the Home Office is satisfied that there are “reasonable grounds for the person’s failure to meet the deadline”. This will not change the fact that the person will be in the UK unlawfully, and will be subject to the hostile environment provisions, whilst the application is considered.
The effect of the changes are as follows:
- An application can be refused, and status cancelled, where the applicant has committed a criminal offence. The end of EU free movement law also means the end of the EU deportation rules. The UK’s deportation rules will be applied to conduct committed after 31 December 2020. The EU deportation rules will continue to apply to conduct committed before that date (Free Movement members can find out more by reading my blog on the topic here - https://www.freemovement.org.uk/eu-deportation-protections-continue-after-brexit/).
- A person will be able to make an application after the 30 June 2021 deadline. They must have reasonable grounds for missing the deadline. The Home Office will consider those grounds when assessing their eligibility for EUSS status.
- Family members will be able to apply for status even when the EEA national has not applied before 30 June 2021, providing both the EEA national and family member have been continuously resident in the UK before 31 December 2020. They will need to show the EEA national, would, if they had made a valid application before 1 July 2021, have been granted pre-settled or settled status.
- A family member can now rely on an EEA Family Permit issued under the Immigration (European Economic Area) Regulations 2016 as evidence of their relationship with the EEA national. The permit must have been issued before 1 July 2021 (unless the family member is a dependant relative, in which case it must have been issued before 31 December 2020). An expired family permit can also be used where the person entered the UK between 1 January 2021 and 30 June 2021.
These changes come in to force on 6 April 2021.
Changes are also being made to allow family members of British/Irish citizens born in Northern Ireland:
- To apply where, due to compelling practical or compassionate reasons, it was not possible for the British/Irish citizen to return to the UK before 31 December 2021; and
- To rely on alternative evidence of identity and national where they cannot provide a passport due to circumstances beyond their control or compelling practical or compassionate reasons.
These changes will come in to force on 1 July 2021.
Appendix EU and Appendix EU (Family Member) are virtually unreadable as it is. These additional changes will not help. Unfortunately, as time progresses, the legal provision in this important area seems to get more and more incomprehensible.
The reason changes are being made, and their effect is not always clear from reading the (very poorly drafted) legislation. Without real life examples, it is often difficult to understand the real-life effect. No doubt all will become clear as more and more people apply, and as unsuccessful applicants make their way through the appeal process. The never ending cycle of piecemeal legislative change and litigation continues.