European Union nationals and their family members who want to stay in the UK after (or if) the UK leaves the European Union will have to apply for immigration permission under the EU settlement scheme. People who can prove they have been in the UK for five years or longer will be granted settled status (indefinite leave), while others are granted pre-settled status (limited leave for five years, which can after five years be ‘topped up’ free of charge to indefinite leave). The Home Office has started to test how it works, and recently ran a trial involving staff and students in three Liverpool universities.
Urszula Domagala applied under the first pilot of the EU settlement scheme. We are very grateful that she has agreed to talk to us about the application process.
Please tell us a little about you
I am Polish, and I arrived in the UK in October 2012 after graduating from the Jagiellonian University as I got offered an internship opportunity. I planned to stay 12-24 months but I am still here as my career developed really well. My plan was never to leave my beloved city of Cracow permanently and I am planning to go back home at some point. I just constantly keep putting this decision off in time for some reason ;-). I travel home every 5-7 weeks so freedom of movement is really important for me.
Participation in the pilot scheme is voluntary. Why did you decide to take part?
I wasn`t going to take part as there is no obligation to get the status confirmed for the next months (or years). I went to the information session and then the registration session to get some more information to be able to assist EU students and give feedback to my colleagues.
One of my objections was the fact that applicants are required to pay a fee. For me personally, I never wished to obtain permanent residency or citizenship in the UK as it was never my intention to stay here permanently. Some other people and I taking part in pilot scheme questioned the fee and its origins. We were told that the two main UK documents confirming identity are a passport and driving licence and they both require similar fees. We responded that those documents are non-obligatory whereas the status application is (will be). The team coordinating the sessions also mentioned that the current fee for a permanent residency application and card is similar – again our response was that this document is not obligatory.
I was not going to apply for the status now (only in the future when there were legal requirements to get the status in the UK confirmed) but then curiosity won and I literally did it for research purposes and also to just get it out the way – I know that this is quite unusual approach and reason so I realise I am not the usual applicant.
Would you have considered applying for pre-settled status if you had lived in the UK for under five years?
I wouldn’t, unless it became obligatory to get (any) status confirmed.
What information were you given about the scheme before you applied?
Due to the nature of my role (International Students Adviser), I follow all Home Office, UKVI announcements of changes to always stay up to date. As an employee of the University of Liverpool I received emails with detailed information about the pilot scheme. There was an information session organised a few weeks prior to the actual application session, too. On the day of application, many members of Home Office staff were physically present to answer any questions and help you with the online application and any technical difficulties.
Please take us through each step of the application
You had to set up an account, providing your email address and then verify the email address by clicking in the link that was sent.
Pages were really plain, nothing complicated, I provided my National Insurance number (NINO) first.
After providing your NINO (if you have one) and answering some basic questions (name, date of birth, address in the UK, criminal convictions in past 12 months) and uploading a photograph, you receive instant indication of the status you could be granted and if there is any information missing for any particular year. For me it looked like the information was not sufficient for 2014 to confirm that I was resident in the UK but I had documents on me and photographed my P60 and two “end of tax year” summaries and submitted them there and then online. I paid £65 via Worldpay and received confirmation emails.
Did you know in advance what documents you would need?
You are informed in advance what documents you should bring (apart from passport) and you could ask about it also during the information session. If you don`t have some additional documents on you, you can send them online later.
How did you feel when it looked as if you might not qualify for settled status?
I wasn`t concerned as I was working in 3 places that year so had two P45 files on me, one for a role that I finished in March, one for the role from April until October, and in November I started my permanent role in the University of Liverpool where I am now employed. It just seemed odd that there were issues with this particular year.
We’ve heard about the app for uploading passport details–can you tell us anything about that?
I used a laptop and not the app. This was because the app was still being tested and developed – there was no option to apply via the app. Applicants were asked to “play” with the app to test it after they finished the application however I didn’t get chance as my slot was quite late and I had to go back to my office due to previous commitments.
UKVI mentioned they are looking into having application help centres and application stations in libraries for people who don’t have an Android phone or who need help with using the app.
Were you asked about absences from the UK and evidence you might need to deal with this?
I wasn’t asked as I provided the documents proving that I never left the UK for more than 6 months within the last 5 years.
What evidence of your status have you received?
Less than 2 weeks later I received an email confirming that I had been granted settled status plus information and a link to the actual status (which at the minute is a really basic website).
Although the email informed me that my status was granted, it also said that it is not a confirmation of my status. You have to click a link to access your status and are asked to provide the number of the document you used for the application (passport in my case) then your date of birth and then you are asked where you would like your one-time password to be sent (email or mobile number in my case). I chose the text option and within seconds I received the password to log in to my settled status.
What do you think of this evidence of status?
I would like to have some physical evidence of my status.
Do you have to do anything else now?
Yes – if you get a new passport or ID card, you have to log in details of your new document but at the moment this option does not seem to be available.
Were you told what will happen if your current passport expires and you don’t get a new one?
You can add a different type of document – in my case I could put the details of my national ID card. I am not sure what would happen if you didn`t have any other document.
What do you think about the scheme and/or the application process?
It was really easy and simple, much more straightforward than anticipated.
Can you foresee difficulties for students or colleagues?
Only because it is still in beta form and there were some technical glitches i.e. photograph had to be under a specified size to upload it, certain answers led to the next section with questions that shouldn`t been asked following my reply to the previous question.
Can institutions do anything now to support those thinking of applying under the scheme?
Provide the information session like the one I attended and online materials to read through, also Home Office staff during the actual registration helped with literally everything.
What advice would you give to others about applying under the scheme?
If the person is intending to stay in the UK I would advise to apply whilst the opportunity is there to get it and get all the in-person support available. It will also help the Home Office to improve the final look of the application form and the whole process. However, at the moment it seems like the process will be really easy and convenient and EU citizens will be able to apply from their homes using a mobile app later, when the scheme will go live.