Amendments to the EU Settlement Scheme: what are they and what do they mean for EU citizens and their family members?

By Dmitri Macmillen - 28 July 2023

On 17 July 2023, the government published a 'Statement of changes to the immigration rules'. It affects several key areas of immigration policy, including the EU Settlement Scheme (EUSS). In this blog post, our Head of Immigration, Dmitri, briefly outlines the latest amendments and reflects on what these changes might mean for EU citizens and their family members. 

The good news

The Independent Monitoring Authority v Secretary of State for the Home Department case was one of last year's most compelling legal cases. It ended with the High Court finding that the EUSS breached the Withdrawal Agreement between the UK and the EU. Why? In a nutshell, this was because the EUSS failed to protect pre-settled status holders (EU citizens and their family members with less than five years' continuous residence in the UK) from becoming unlawfully resident if they did not apply for settled status before their pre-settled status expired. 

In response to the High Court's judgement, the government has now amended the rules underpinning the EUSS. From September 2023, those with pre-settled status will have their status automatically extended by two years if they have not yet applied for settled status before the expiry of their pre-settled status. We welcome the news that, as of 2024, the Home Office also intends to automatically convert as many pre-settled status holders as possible to settled status, once they meet the eligibility requirements for it, and without the need for them to submit an application.

It remains to be seen how these two amendments will work in practice, but we look forward to seeing further details of this from the Home Office. We - like other organisations working to protect migrants' rights - would also welcome clear guidance on how the Home Office intends to continue protecting the rights of pre-settled holders beyond a two-year extension period, particularly where they may still remain ineligible for a grant of settled status.

The less good news

As of 9 August 2023, the Home Office will implement certain changes to the Immigration Rules that give us cause for concern. These changes will make it possible to reject an EUSS application as invalid if it is deemed there are no reasonable grounds for a late application, leaving an applicant with no right of appeal or administrative review to challenge that decision. Until now, if the Home Office refused a late application because it believed there were no reasonable grounds for it having been submitted late, the applicant would have had a right of appeal or administrative review against that refusal.

As a charity, we continue to be approached by large numbers of EU citizens who are eligible for pre-settled or settled status, but have yet to confirm their status under the EUSS. Many of these beneficiaries are vulnerable, and our fear is that the changes to the Immigration Rules may herald a harsher approach by the Home Office to late applications, as well as pushing more eligible EU citizens and their family members into destitution, and making it harder for them to prove their right to work.  

If you are eligible for pre-settled or settled status and have not yet made an application under the EUSS, we advise you to get immigration advice as soon as possible. If you would like to speak to one of our advisers, please call us on 0300 4000 100 or complete our query form

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