Thank you for contacting me about settled status and asking that I sign EDM 146. I made a decision some time ago not to sign EDMs as they have no legislative effect, almost always have no influence whatsoever and cost taxpayers over £500,000 per year on average. That said, I am happy to comment on the issue you have raised.
I know you have concerns about the future of EU citizens in the UK. While it is not for me to comment on any individual case, I can assure you that the EU Settlement Scheme protects EU citizens' rights and provides those citizens with an immigration status under UK law. The new system for obtaining settled status is streamlined, user-friendly and draws on existing government data to minimise the burden on applicants to provide evidence. Applications will not be refused on minor technicalities without the applicant being given the opportunity to rectify them, and caseworkers considering applications will exercise discretion in favour of the applicant where appropriate. As a result, the Home Office has said it expects the vast majority of cases to be granted, with refusals most likely to be because of serious criminality or if the person is not an EU citizen (or family member). Once obtained, people will be able to be absent from the UK for up to five years without losing their settled status.
As you will be aware, 31 December 2020 was the deadline for EEA citizens to be resident in the UK to be eligible for the settled status scheme. It is good news that EEA citizens eligible have until 30 June 2021 to submit an application. I understand there are concerns regarding this deadline, however, it is important to consider that the scheme was launched in 2019 and the latest statistics show that there have been 4.88 million applications with 4.49 million concluded applications. I was pleased to see that 97 per cent of concluded applications have resulted in settled or pre-settled status.
You may be reassured that there will be some instances were applications made after 30 June 2021 will be accepted and I understand guidance on this will be published in early this year. I know that a wide range of support is available online and over the telephone if needed and the Government is funding 72 organisations across the UK to ensure no one gets left behind.
I can assure you that the Government is focused on working closely with local authorities to ensure vulnerable groups get UK immigration status under the EU settlement scheme. Ministers have been clear from the start of the EU Settlement Scheme that the Home Office will accept late applications where there are reasonable grounds for doing so. If a child in care or a care leaver does miss the deadline, they will still be able to obtain lawful status in the UK.
I welcomed the decision that there will be no settled status application fee. Any person who has applied during the pilot phases will have their fee reimbursed. This decision makes clear to EU citizens living in the UK that their contribution to our society is deeply valued.
Thank you again for taking the time to contact me.