Two fifths of EU applicants not granted full settled status

More than 40% of EU nationals are being given pre-settled status, Home Office figures show

Credit: Isabel Infantes/EMPICS Entertainment

More than two in five applicants to the EU settlement scheme have been granted pre-settled status rather than full rights to stay in the UK, the latest Home Office figures have shown.

The figures have been published shortly after separate statistics obtained by the Public Law Project showed nine in ten appeals against decisions to grant pre-settled status were successful.

Official Home Office stats published this week showed that 2.6 million applications had been made to the settlement scheme by the end of November, of which 2.2 million had been concluded. Fifty-nine per cent of those were granted full settled status and 41% received pre-settled status.

Most EU and EEA nationals can obtain settled status, giving them the right to live and work in the UK permanently, if they have lived in the UK for five years. Those who have lived in the UK for less than five years can apply for pre-settled status, which they can convert to full settled status once they hit the half-decade mark. Applicants who have lived in the UK for more than five years could be given pre-settled status if they are unable to prove their continuous residence.

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In a recent select committee hearing, chancellor of the duchy of Lancaster Michael Gove was grilled over what committee member Wera Hobhouse said were “thousands and thousands living in limbo” as a result of the failings of the government’s digital application system and the resultant decisions.

Gove responded by pointing out that “any computer system” sometimes malfunctions.

“There will inevitably be occasions where an individual who has put in a properly constituted application—for whatever reason, the system may not respond to that appropriately,” he said. “When that happens, that is wrong. We should move quickly to put it right, but it is the case that if people have the appropriate evidence of their residency here over that appropriate period and they are EU citizens then the granting of settled status, or pre-settled status, should be relatively straightforward.”

This week’s official Home Office statistics were published shortly after the department revealed that 89.5% of appeals of EU settlement scheme decisions resulted in the outcome being overturned.

EU citizens who apply to the scheme can request an “administrative review” if they are unhappy with the outcome of their application – for example, if they had been granted pre-settled status rather than full rights to stay in the UK.

As of 12 September, the Home Office had been asked to carry out 451 such reviews, according to the figures, which the Public Law Project obtained through a series of FoI requests.

Of the 325 reviews it had completed by that date, 291 led to the department’s initial decision to grant someone pre-settled status being overturned, and to them instead getting full settled status.

Decisions can be overturned because of mistakes made by the caseworkers assessing applications, or because the applicant has submitted new evidence of UK residence.

A Home Office spokesperson said the “majority of overturned decisions are not caseworker error but where an applicant provides new information”.

They added that the number of reviews is “very low” compared to the overall number of applications processed and granted.

But Alice Welsh, the PLP researcher who submitted the FoI requests, said the figures “raise concerns that the initial application process does not inform applicants sufficiently on the ability to submit supplementary evidence and the kinds of evidence required for the scheme”.

The statistics show a “a significantly higher success rate for administrative reviews of EUSS decisions than other immigration decisions”, Welsh wrote in a blog on her research. The latest figures on administrative reviews in other areas of the immigration system show reviews had a success rate of just 3.4% in 2016/17, she noted.

And a second FoI showed that in 192 cases, the Home Office had refunded the £80 fee for its administrative review. Refunds are only given when a decision is overturned because of reasons other than new evidence – which Welsh said suggested caseworker error in at least some cases.

The newly published government data, meanwhile, shows five applications have been turned down so far because the applicant did not meet the suitability requirements – because, for example, they were subject to a deportation order.

The greatest number of applications were from Polish nationals – 483,800 in total – followed Romanians , with 411,000, and Italians, at 272,600.

The figures also showed a surge in applications in August, the month that Boris Johnson was appointed prime minister, promising that the UK would leave the EU on the then-Brexit deadline of 31 October “no ifs no buts”. 

Applications more than doubled from 131,300 in July to 299,000 in August, rising again to 520,600 in September and spiking at 590,300 in October. Total applications fell again in November, to 142,300, following the Brexit extension to 31 January.


Sam Trendall

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