EU citizens are to be given a two-year ‘grace period’ following Brexit to apply for settled status in the UK.

In news that will offer some relief to employers and employees in the bakery and foodservice industries, the government has today (7 November) announced details of how the previously announced ‘settled status’ scheme will operate.

The government said it expected the ‘majority’ of applications to stay in the UK following Brexit would be granted, and that applications would not be refused on minor technicalities. Caseworkers considering applications would exercise discretion where appropriate, it added.

Employers and trade organisations have previously flagged up concerns about the impact the loss of EU workers could have on the UK food industry.

“We have been clear that safeguarding the rights of EU citizens is our top priority in our negotiations,” said David Davis, Secretary of State for Exiting the EU. “They make a huge contribution to our economy and society and we do not want to see that change as a result of our decision to leave the EU.”

“We will support everyone wishing to stay to gain settled status through a new straightforward, streamlined system.”

The government has today published a technical document that commits to:

  • giving EU citizens ‘plenty of time’ to apply, with a two-year grace period after Britain leaves the EU to make an application for settled status
  • minimising documentary evidence applicants need to provide and enabling caseworkers to contact applicants to resolve minor issues
  • keeping the cost of an application to no more than that of a British passport
  • giving EU citizens a statutory right of appeal, in line with current rights through the Free Movement Directive, if their application is unsuccessful
  • making decisions solely on the criteria set out in the Withdrawal Agreement, with no discretion for other reasons for refusal
  • introducing a ‘digital, streamlined and user-friendly’ application system
  • not requiring EU citizens to have held comprehensive sickness insurance or to provide fingerprints
  • a simpler, lower-cost process for those who already have permanent residence documentation.

Applicants will be asked to declare any criminal convictions and be checked against UK security databases, which the government described as “a reasonable measure to keep the country safe from those who have abused our hospitality by committing serious crimes”.

“We know that there is some anxiety among EU citizens about how the process of applying for settled status will work, so I hope this document provides some further reassurance,” said Home Secretary Amber Rudd.

“I have been clear that EU citizens living in the UK make an enormous contribution to our country and we want them to stay.”