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EU Settlement Scheme and Covid-19: Top 5 FAQs

The EU Settlement Scheme (EUSS) remains open to EU nationals and their family members. However, for many, Covid-19 has impacted the way applications are made and processed.

On 15 December 2020, the Home Office provided some guidance for applicants who have been affected by restrictions associated with coronavirus. The Home Office casework guidance on EUSS was also updated on 2 December 2020 to include some further information on Covid-19.

Here are some frequently asked questions about the EU Settlement Scheme and Covid-19.

1. How do I make a valid application if my passport/identity document has expired and I cannot renew it due to covid-19?

The guidance confirms that where an application is made either inside or outside of the UK, that alternative evidence of identity and nationality may be accepted where ‘the applicant cannot obtain or produce the required document due to circumstances beyond their control or due to compelling practical or compassionate reasons.’ Alternative evidence can include, documents previously issued by the Home Office, expired passports, other official documents such as a driving licence  etc. This is a non-exhaustive list.

You should contact the EU Settlement Resolution centre if you do not have a valid identity document to confirm how you should make your application and you are likely to be issued with a paper application form.

A number of countries have extended the validity of their identity documents. For example, Bulgarian passports and national identity cards which expired between 13 March 2020 and 31 October 2020 are treated as having no expiry date, as confirmed in the Home Office casework guidance on page 23.

The 15 December 2020 guidance confirms that for those applying from outside of the UK, you will need to demonstrate that you cannot produce the required document due to coronavirus restrictions such as closure or inability to travel to an embassy or high commission. However, you would need to provide evidence of this.

2. If further evidence is provided, should I send it by post?

The Home Office may request further information or evidence when making a decision on an application. The guidance suggests that you should be offered the opportunity to provide this further evidence by email and evidence should be accepted in a digital format.

If you are only able to post the documents to the Home Office, you should allow extra time to take into account any delays in posting.

3. Is my continuous qualifying period broken because I could not travel back to the UK due to Covid-19?

The continuous qualifying period is normally broken where absences from the UK and Islands exceed a total of six months in any 12-month period. Absences less than 6 months will not cause a break in the continuous qualifying period.

Between 6 and 12 months absence

Appendix EU sets out exceptions to this such as ‘a single period of absence which did not exceed 12 months and was for an important reason (such as pregnancy, childbirth, serious illness, study, vocational training or an overseas posting)’.

The 15 December 2020 guidance confirms that if you had coronavirus overseas and therefore could not return to the UK or were prevented from doing so due to travel restrictions, that absence will not cause you to break your continuous qualifying period unless it is more than 12 months. The guidance confirms that you are only permitted a single absence exceeding 6 months (but not exceeding 12 months) for an important reason in your 5-year continuous qualifying period.

The guidance specifically confirms that for students who were studying in the UK and are studying outside the UK because of coronavirus, that absence will not cause a break in the continuous qualifying period, where it is for a single period of more than 6 months but not more than 12 months, during your 5-year continuous qualifying period.

Self-isolating is only considered to be an important reason where you were under quarantine conditions. The guidance gives the following examples:

  • “when ill with coronavirus yourself,
  • sharing a house with someone ill with coronavirus,
  • when required to self-isolate as a result of being, or being in contact with someone who is, in a vulnerable or high-risk category
  • In all cases where you have been prevented from travelling due to coronavirus you should provide a supporting letter with your application outlining the details and the dates you were ill or were in quarantine.”

Evidence of the reason for absence will need to be provided in any event.

4. Do I have to restart my continuous qualifying period if I was absent from the UK?

If there is an absence of less than 6 months, or a single absence between 6 and 12 months with good reason, you will not need to restart your continuous qualifying period. If there is more than one absence between 6 and 12 months or an absence from the UK of more than 12 months, these will always interrupt your continuous qualifying period.

In those circumstances you would have been required to restart your continuous qualifying period by 31 December 2020 to be eligible for status under the EUSS.

5. Has there been any extension of the 30 June 2021 deadline to apply to the EU Settlement Scheme?

There is currently no suggestion that the deadline to apply under the EU Settlement Scheme will be extended due to Covid-19.

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