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Innisfree Housing Association Tamil Community Housing Association

'Brexit' - latest developments

The UK has left the EU, but until 31 December 2020 all the housing and benefit entitlements of European nationals who live in the UK continue as before.

The information on the pages on European workers, family members and other European nationals, and elsewhere on the website, still applies.

EU Settlement Scheme applications: Important message about COVID-19

Support services and application routes changed temporarily due to the pandemic, but the Home Office says that services have returned to near-normal, 'in line with public health guidance'.

There is still time to apply before the deadline of 30 June 2021 for EU Settlement Scheme applications. Additional support is available to those who cannot easily apply online through Assisted Digital, which offers assistance over the phone. A video also explains the range of support servics for those applying.

On 31 January 2020 the UK ceased to be a member of the European Union and the withdrawal agreement came into force. The UK is still subject to EU law and 'free movement' rules until the end of 2020. Any developments since 31 January are shown on this page and on the other relevant pages of the website.

Guidance about the EU Settlement Scheme is given on the main pages of the website, but for more detailed information please subscribe to our quarterly newsletter. The newsletter also has details of the government's new immigration legislation as it develops, and how it affects EU nationals.

Where do things stand now 'Brexit' has taken place?

There is an excellent summary by Free Movement. It explains:

  • that during the transition period very little changes
  • EU law continues to apply unless it is replaced by UK law - which is expected to happen as legislation is put in place over the course of this year
  • some of changes have already been agreed, such as new deportation rules, but they do not take effect until 1 January 2021
  • even if there is no agreement with the EU about the UK's future relationship with it, the EU Settlement Scheme continues to apply and the deadline for applying (30 June 2021) stays the same. (There are more details on the Settlement Scheme below.)

The article also explains what happens about EU case law and to rules governing the treatment of asylum seekers.

Right to rent - effects on EU nationals in England

There will be no changes to the right to rent for EU, EEA and Swiss citizens and their family members living in England until 1 January 2021. The government website confirms that arrangements stay in place for this period and that European citizens in these groups can continue to prove their right to rent, simply using their passport or an identity card from their home country. They should not be asked for evidence of Settled Status or Pre-Settled Status (see below).

After 1 January 2021 landlords will not be required to undertake 'retrospective checks' on existing EU, EEA or Swiss tenants when the new system is introduced.

Of course, in practice, many landlords are likely to be unaware of this and may start refusing accommodation to EU nationals.

EU Settlement Scheme appeal rights introduced

There is an appeal mechansim for EU nationals refused Settled Status or Pre-Settled Status (see below). The regulations and appeal rights relate to decisions made on or after 31 January.

How the EU Settlement Scheme affects housing and benefits eligibility

EEA nationals living in the UK and all people with EU rights to reside (including family members of EEA nationals and ‘Zambrano carers’) can apply to the EU Settlement Scheme until 30 June 2021. Successful applicants who can prove they have lived continuously in the UK for five years get ‘EU Settled Status’.  Those who can prove residence for shorter periods get ‘EU Pre-Settled Status’ and can later apply to convert this into EU Settled Status.

EU Settled Status is indefinite leave granted with no conditions attached and so people with this leave are eligible for housing and benefits (but see below for probems that might arise).  For housing and homelessness services they are in eligible class C. 

EU Pre-Settled Status is limited leave and does not help a person qualify for universal credit/housing benefit, or in England and Wales obtain housing and homelessness services. But in Scotland due to differences in the law a person who also has an EU right to reside does qualify for housing or homelessness assistance (but not UC/HB).

There are some other exclusions, explained in the adviser pages of the website. Look at the section on the effects of the EU Settlement Scheme on the adviser pages for European workers, Other European nationals and European family members.

The website has consolidated regulations on housing and benefits eligibility which have been updated with the new rules. See the pages on The law on housing eligibility for the new English and Welsh rules and on housing benefit regulations for the new rules applying across England, Wales and Scotland.

There is an excellent summary of the rights of European nationals during the transition period produced by the Public Law Project.

Problems with housing and benefits eligibility for those with Settled Status

Our July newsletter featured an article from Praxis about a London borough trying to argue that people with EU Settled Status but no other qualifying right to reside were not eligible for housing assistance.  This is particularly relevant to those working with street homeless people who often have long gaps in work history but can show residence for five years and so apply for Settled Status.  CIH has issued a letter (pdf) giving its interpretation of the rules which may be useful to advisers. Recent newsletters have examples of help available to EU nationals to resolve universal credit claims and other issues.

EU nationals arriving after 31 December 2020 or who fail to get Settled Status

The EU Free Movement rules stay in place until 31 December 2020 and EU nationals can continue to come to the UK to live during that period. But all EU nationals who have not yet resolved their status in the EU Settlement Scheme have a time-limited period to do so. There are two main groups affected.

First, there are EU nationals living in the UK before Brexit who failed to apply to (or have been rejected by) the EU Settlement Scheme. They are at risk if they do not resolve their status by 30 June 2021, and ministers have even raised the spectre of deportations, although it has also been suggested that those with 'reasonable grounds' for missing the deadline will be given more time.

Second, there is a middle group of EU nationals – those who arrive after Brexit but before 31 December 2020 – who will will not have had time to build up the five-year residency requirement. So, their protected status as EU nationals will eventually disappear. They can apply to the EU Settlement Scheme for Pre-Settled Status and will need to do so before 30 June 2021.

Originally it was planned that new entrants from the EU could apply for a new temporary immigration status called European Temporary Leave to Remain, or ‘Euro TLR’, to last for three years. This has now been dropped.

For benefits and for housing allocations it is unclear how a newly arrived EU national will be distinguished from someone who was here before Brexit but hasn’t yet applied to the EU settlement scheme. There have been no changes on how entitlement to benefits will be evidenced, and the government is saying entitlement will be proven in the same way as before. However, will this work? Clearly there are risks in claiming benefits for EU nationals who enter the UK after Brexit: even if the DWP are not doing checks presently it may later turn out that such people were not eligible.

EU Settlement Scheme and domestic abuse victims

Immigration rules changes have widened access to the EU settlement scheme to victims of domestic violence or abuse. If a family member’s relationship with an EEA citizen breaks down permanently as a result of domestic violence or abuse, this, coupled with their own continuous residence in the UK, will be recognised as part of their application.

Easier access to benefits for family members of people from N Ireland

People from Northern Ireland are now able to sponsor non-European family members under the light-touch EU Settlement Scheme. The government has recently passed a separate but related measure: the Social Security (Income-Related Benefits) (Persons of Northern Ireland – Family Members) (Amendment) Regulations 2020. The aim of the regulations is to enable such family members to claim benefits in Great Britain “on broadly the same terms as family members of citizens of the Republic of Ireland”. A briefing on the changes is available from the Northern Ireland Human Rights Commission.

Guidance for European nationals on the EU Settlement Scheme

There is a lot of guidance on how the EU schemes work.

The AIRE centre offers various guides and apps:

  • A series of information leaflets on the EUSS, including what happens in the event of no deal. They are translated into various European languages.
  • The AIRE Centre web app supports any EU citizen who is unsure about the settled status system and would like some reassurance as to their eligibility. A second app supports EU citizens with understanding their entitlement to permanent residence. Both apps are easy to use, take users through multiple questions which mirror the ones in the actual PR and EUSS applications, and provide them with an idea of whether they would be eligible to apply for either.
  • A guide for vulnerable young people which aims is to assist vulnerable young people, including those in care or who have recently left care to apply for EUSS. It includes explanations about what EUSS is, how to apply and a short quiz which gives a decision about what status they might have.

Look out for training sessions on the Settlement Scheme for community-based advisers, on the AIRE centre website.  

Free Movement also has a step-by-step guide to making a permanent residence application and also guidance on applying for British citizenship.

The Roma Support Group offers help to Roma people who want to obtain settled or pre-settled status. Book an appointment with them on 07440 743866 or 07459 319706, Monday to Friday, 11am until 5pm.

The Mayor of London has a specific website, the EU Londoners Hub, which has a range of guidance in different languages.

There are some useful guides produced by expert lawyers, available free online:

  • Free movement
  • The Here for Good guide
  • Government guidance on applying for settled status
  • Guidance from ADCS on assisting children and care leavers to apply for settled status.
  • Government guidance for local authorities and health and social care trusts to make sure looked-after children and care leavers apply to the EU Settlement Scheme.

The government provides a list of organisations that give help with making EU Settlement Scheme applications.

We welcome suggestions for updating the guidance on the Housing Rights website and for including links to relevant new sources of guidance or information.

Please email with any suggestions, making clear your message refers to this website.

Chartered Institute of Housing

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Chartered Institute of Housing