Employers face hurdles despite rush of EU settlement approvals - 08/11/2021

Immigration specialists have warned employers over right to work checks and the backlog in EU settled status applications as new figures from the Home Office reveal the extent of the rush from EU nationals to join the scheme.

June 2021 saw the third largest volume of applications (443,790) to the Euss since its launch as people scrambled to submit their details before the final deadline on the 30th of that month. October 2019 saw the highest number (591,580).

But lawyers have warned that employers faced difficulties over right to work checks (postponed until April 2022) and employees whose applications were still to be decided upon. Chetal Patel of Bates Wells and Joanna Hunt at Fieldfisher also said the next release of statistics were key with Hunt drawing attention to the skills shortages across nearly all sectors.

The number of concluded applications up to 30 June 2021 was 5,444,550. Of these, 52% (2,846,820) were granted settled status and 43% (2,327,850) were granted pre-settled status. There were 109,430 refusals, 80,600 withdrawn or void outcomes and 79,730 invalid outcomes in the same period. Of the refusals, 99% were refused on eligibility grounds and less than 1% were refused on suitability grounds.

The newly released figures from the Home Office cover 28 August 2019 to 30 June 2021.

Across all nationalities, the highest numbers of applications received were from Polish, Romanian and Italian nationals but there major variations between regions of the UK with Scotland and Wales seeing more applications proportionally from Bulgarian nationals, more Spanish nationals applying in Scotland and more Lithuanians in Northern Ireland.

Hunt, director and head of UK immigration at Fieldfisher, said more significance should be attached to the next batch of figures: “With the three-month delay on getting the EU Settlement Scheme figures from the Home Office, it does not tell us about the current situation and these statistics are from before the deadline. The next release of figures will be the one to watch, as it will show what is happening now that the end of June deadline has passed.”

Post-Brexit immigration

She described the spike in June as the result of the “mad rush” to get in applications before the deadline, adding she was encouraged to see the high rate of approvals.

Patel, partner at Bates Wells, noted that the figures revealed the largest number of applicants moving from pre-settled to settled status since the scheme’s inception (25,060) and reminded employers that they were not required to ask existing EEA staff who were employed on or before 30 June 2021 to inform them of a change in their status. However, she said  “we’re seeing a number of cases, where individuals have been forthcoming with their employer to notify them of their status change”.

She also said she was concerned by the “massive” backlog of applications. She said “we can’t underestimate the task that lies ahead for the Home Office. The cohort of individuals within this backlog are potentially the ones that may have issues changing employers.”

Meanwhile, earlier this week, London mayor Sadiq Khan pleaded with the government to alter its stance on immigration given the relative paucity of skills afflicting some industries.

Specifically, he called for the introduction of a time-limited Covid recovery visa to “help attract international workers into key roles to support our economic recovery”.

Because of the urgency of the challenges facing businesses in London, he said ministers needed to change the immigration system “so that it meets our economic needs and helps our businesses”.

This should include a Covid recovery visa, he said, to meet London’s unique needs when it came to attracting workers from around the world. “A more tailored, dynamic approach is urgently required,” said Khan, adding that a “flexible” migration system “will always be crucial to London’s competitiveness and our ongoing success”.

Hunt reinforced Khan’s demand. She said that the Euss was “no longer of any benefit to the UK industries that are facing severe worker crises, such as hospitality, healthcare and construction. They simply need better options from the Home Office to address their worker shortage issues.”

She also advised employers to be mindful of their new responsibility to check and track the status of non-native workers, failing to do so would leave them “at greater risk of falling foul to UK right to work laws”, she added.

Earlier this month it emerged there were problems with digital residency permits which had led to EU nationals living in the UK being rejected by employers, landlords and mortgage lenders.

The issue had arisen when EU nationals tried to upgrade their status from pre-settled to settled once they had lived in the UK continuously for five years.



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