A recent High Court ruling has engineered a change in the process for obtaining settled status for anyone who is under the post-Brexit arrangements. EEA nationals and their family members, currently resident in the UK with “pre-settled status”, will see a positive benefit.
At present, those granted pre-settled status are granted a five-year visa to work and reside in the UK. They are able to apply for settled status (also known as indefinite leave to remain, i.e. permanent residence) once they have spent a continuous period of at least five years in the UK. Non-EEA family members are eligible for pre-settled and settled status on the basis of their relationship with the EEA national as well as their UK residence. The process to date has revolved (as it does in other categories) around absence-checking, to verify that applicants meet day count criteria.
Automatic extension of pre-settled status
Those with pre-settled status will now have their UK immigration permission automatically extended by a further two years. The renewal will take place approximately one to two months before the pre-settled status is set to expire. The extensions will apply to anyone who holds pre-settled status, which includes non-EEA family members of EEA nationals.
In the first phase of the automatic extension regime, the extension will be applied to a person’s digital status without any checks being carried out on whether the individual continues to meet the criteria for pre-settled status. Once this is done, the individual will be emailed by the Home Office and they will also be able to check their status on their online Home Office account.
The Home Office has not confirmed if further automatic renewals will be available if a person has already received their initial two-year extension.
Obtaining settled status
During 2024, the Home Office is aiming to have the systems in place to ascertain whether a holder of pre-settled status can be converted to settled status or whether their pre-settled status will be renewed.
There will be no need to make an application since the process is wholly automatic. Individuals will be informed by the Home Office once they have either been granted settled status or when their pre-settled status has been renewed.
The exact details of the logistics for this are still to be confirmed, however it is likely individuals that appear eligible for settled status will be contacted before it is granted to ensure they continue to meet the requirements, i.e. no excess absences from the UK.
Right to Work
The automatic renewal system will not change the rules and processes for employers carrying out right to work checks on individuals. The guidance is yet to be updated, but the Home Office will provide employers with clarification as to when follow up right to work checks should be carried out. In the meantime, employers should continue to monitor the expiries of those holding pre-settled status and complete new right to work checks when appropriate.
Watch this space! In light of the above changes, those with pre-settled status are advised to ensure that their Home Office accounts are updated with current email addresses and ID documents. This will ensure that correspondence is received from the Home Office and that immigration status remains connected to your “live” travel document.
For those looking to apply for settled status, it would be pragmatic to apply as soon as they are eligible, rather than waiting for the automatic conversion. This will ensure that the accrual of time towards the residence requirement for British citizenship begins at the earliest opportunity.