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The one thing that is settled in the Brexit deal - Settled Status System for EEA nationals testing phase results

13 November 2018

Whether we have a Brexit deal on 29 March 2019 or not, the UK is more than likely to be going full steam ahead with the Settled Status System (“SSS”). Largely because there are no realistic options for a new system at this stage; all the time and money available has already been invested into the SSS. The Home Office themselves are the first to admit this and assure anyone that asks, that they can be fairly certain to rely on the SSS going ahead regardless.

Of course, pollsters all said the referendum would never end in a vote to leave the EU but let’s hope the time of political shocks has come to a close.

The first phase of SSS private beta testing has been completed and the results are out. 1083 applications from public sector employees with five years’ continuous employment were submitted via the SSS. Of those submitted, only 883 required substantive checking as the others already had Permanent Residence or Indefinite Leave to Remain in the UK. In the latter category, the SSS is effectively just swapping one status for the new status. The main difference is that Settled Status can be lost after spending five full years outside the UK whereas Permanent Residence or Indefinite Leave to Remain are lost after just two years outside the UK.

The SSS is supposed to bring the UK immigration system into a new era of automatic checking against existing government records. All applications are checked against the data held by HMRC (the UK tax department) and the Department of Work and Pensions in the first instance. Only those individuals who do not have sufficient data with these organisations will need to submit documents to evidence their residence in the UK.

If those requiring assessment during beta testing, 96% were automatically matched to HMRC records without issue. Three percent required some form of intervention to be matched. Having discussed this with the head of the new system, this was largely those whose names had more than one way of being entered eg “von Hoffen” versus “Hoffen”. This issue has been corrected by adding additional search formulas to the automatic data recall.

A further 1.4% were not able to be matched to HMRC records. This was typically due to data entry errors made by the applicant or when the government record was created.

Good news one might think.

But it is worth bearing in mind that the people participating in the first test phase are in the most straight forward category of EEA nationals who will be using the system; those with a clear employment and tax record for at least five consecutive years. Anyone with periods of unemployment, economic self-sufficiency, retirees and students are likely to be harder to match data on. Happily, the Home Office do state that they will only be assessing for five years consecutive residence and not assessing whether Treaty Rights were exercised, nor insisting on Comprehensive Sickness Insurance being held throughout any periods of economic self-sufficiency or study, as they currently do. Disconcertingly, the Immigration Rules underpinning the SSS does still list Exercising Treaty Rights as a requirement though we are assured that is only to refuse those applicants with criminal or character issues which are not quite high enough to pass the bar set under European law.

The next phase is underway and by 29 March 2019, the system should be fully operational and open to everyone to apply.

Many clients are seeking professional guidance for their employees and hand-holding through the process. If you would like more information please contact Naomi Hanrahan-Soar at Lewis Silkin.

 

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