This week’s deadline for registration for the EU Settlement Scheme (EUSS) marks the culmination of the biggest change to UK migration policy in at least 50 years, but is only the beginning of a set of new policy and social challenges that are likely to continue for many years, the Migration Observatory at the University of Oxford said today.
In a new commentary, What now? The EU Settlement Scheme after the deadline, the Migration Observatory pulls together some of the key evidence available on the EUSS. It highlights that it will take years to resolve the number of cases involving people who have failed to apply to the scheme, despite having the right to do so, and that – equally significantly – approximately 2 million people with ‘pre-settled’ status will still have to re-apply for settled status or risk becoming ‘irregular’ migrants.
Approximately 5 million people had applied to EUSS by the end of March 2021, after accounting for repeat applications. These figures continued to rise as the June 2021 deadline approached.
EU citizens who needed to apply to EUSS and missed the deadline will be classed as irregular migrants and lose their rights to work, rent housing or access many benefits and services. They could also be subject to removal from the UK. The government has said that if people have a good reason for applying late, they should be given the benefit of the doubt for now, but that the approach to late applicants will become more restrictive over time.
Previous analysis from the Migration Observatory identified groups of people who were most at risk of failing to secure status, including members of vulnerable groups such as children in care or victims of domestic abuse; as well as people who do not realise they have to apply, such as people who have lived in the UK for many years.
Madeleine Sumption, Director of the Migration Observatory at the University of Oxford said: “The changes we have seen implemented in the UK’s immigration system since the referendum represent a generational shift in migration policy, and the deadline this week is a critical moment – but this is by no means the end of the saga.
“There are no figures that can tell us exactly how many people will lose their legal status this week, but if it is only a few percent of the EU citizen population, this would be tens or hundreds of thousands of people. They won’t necessarily realise they have lost their status right away. For some, it will only become clear later on—for example, when they get a new job or need to be treated in hospital. There are also around two million people with pre-settled status, who will need to apply to the scheme again if they want to keep their right to live in the UK. So it may be many more years before the legal, political, economic and social consequences start to emerge. The dust has not settled on the settlement scheme yet.”