One of the major concerns for people applying to the EU Settlement Scheme throughout the ongoing pandemic is the fact that they have been outside the UK for longer than they had planned, meaning their continual residence may be affected. This can easily occur when travel restrictions are put in place, meaning people can be stranded, and it is not their fault. You will remember that for an extended period there were many countries on the ‘red’ and ‘amber’ lists, which meant people in those countries could not travel to the UK or could only do so under specific circumstances.

 

This blog will look into the guidance around EUSS applicants who have faced such hardships, and whose absence from the UK has exceed the permitted time limit to successfully apply to the scheme in regular circumstances, due to COVID-19 restrictions.

 

Making your situation known

 

The deadline to apply for the EUSS was 30 June 2021 for most people. However, you can still apply if either you have a later deadline – for example, you are joining a family member in the UK who was living in the UK by 31 December 2020 or you have ‘reasonable grounds’ for being unable to apply by 30 June 2021.

 

When completing your initial application to the EUSS, there will be a space available in which you can provide details regarding how COVID-19, or other significant factors, affected your situation and restricted your ability to travel back to the UK.

 

Each application will be assessed on a case-by-case basis, and caseworkers are said to be adopting a flexible approach and using discretion where appropriate, which we hope is true. You may be contacted for further information or evidence to support your application where the caseworker feels this is necessary.

 

 

Providing evidence

 

There is specific evidence that will be accepted when you explain your situation on your application.

 

Examples of acceptable evidence include (but are not limited to):

 

  • used travel tickets confirming the dates you left the UK and returned
  • confirmation of flight cancellations detailing the dates and times
  • doctor’s letter confirming you contracted coronavirus
  • doctor’s letter confirming you were identified as vulnerable and advised to shield
  • email or letter confirming you, or a person you were living with, received a positive coronavirus test result
  • official letter confirming you were in coronavirus quarantine
  • doctor’s letter confirming your family member, who you have been caring for, contracted coronavirus or was identified as vulnerable and advised to shield
  • email or letter confirming your family member, who you have been caring for, received a positive coronavirus test result
  • letter from a university advising you that, due to coronavirus, your course was moved to remote learning and you were advised or allowed to return to your home country to study remotely
  • letter from a university or employer advising you not to return to the UK, and to continue studying or working remotely from your home country, due to coronavirus
  • letter or other evidence from you accounting for your absence for another reason relating to coronavirus, for example, you left or remained outside the UK because there were fewer coronavirus restrictions elsewhere; you preferred to work or run a business from home overseas; or you would have been unemployed in the UK and preferred to rely on support from family or friends overseas

 

You can provide a copy of these documents, however the Home Office may ask you to send them the original documents if they need to see them.

 

Have not been able to renew passport?

 

If your situation has arisen from not being able to renew a passport or travel documentation due to coronavirus, you will need to provide some information so that your identity can be confirmed. These can be:

 

  • a document previously issued by the Home Office
  • an expired passport or national identity card
  • an official document issued by the authorities of your country of origin or of the UK which confirms your identity and nationality

 

 

Assessing your absence

 

There are slightly different rules depending on how long you were absence from the UK for, but largely the accepted reasons for an absence are the same across the board.

 

For example, absence of up to 12 months for an ‘important reason’ can be explained by the following reasons, you were:

 

  • ill with coronavirus
  • in quarantine, self-isolating or shielding in accordance with local public health guidance on coronavirus
  • caring for a family member affected by coronavirus
  • prevented from returning earlier to the UK due to travel disruption caused by coronavirus
  • advised by your university that, due to coronavirus, your course was moved to remote learning and you were advised or allowed to return to your home country to study remotely
  • advised by your university or employer not to return to the UK, and to continue studying or working remotely from your home country
  • absent from the UK for another reason relating to coronavirus, for example, you left or remained outside the UK because there were fewer coronavirus restrictions elsewhere; you preferred to work or run a business from home overseas; or you would have been unemployed in the UK and preferred to rely on support from family or friends overseas

 

This means you can rely on any coronavirus related reason (including where you chose to leave or remain outside the UK because of the pandemic) as being an ‘important reason’ permitting an absence of up to 12 months. In these circumstances, you will not have broken your continuous qualifying period of residence.

 

The above reasons can also be used to explain absence not intended to exceed 6 months and did not exceed 12 months.

 

Things change slightly when the absence is more than 12 months. Examples of an ‘important reason’ in this instance include (but are not limited to):

 

  • pregnancy
  • childbirth
  • serious illness
  • study
  • vocational training
  • an overseas posting

 

However, you can still rely on reasons to do with coronavirus if this is what has affected you. This includes (but is not limited to) where you can show you were:

 

  • ill with coronavirus
  • in quarantine, self-isolating or shielding in accordance with local public health guidance on coronavirus
  • caring for a family member affected by coronavirus
  • prevented from returning earlier to the UK due to travel disruption caused by coronavirus
  • advised by your university or employer not to return to the UK, and to continue studying or working remotely from your home country, due to coronavirus

 

 

Our thoughts

 

We believe that appropriate measures are in place to support those who missed the EUSS deadline get back on the right track. It is essential that such allowances are made for those affected by coronavirus, or indeed other important reasons which meant they were unable to return to the UK. There is no reason to punish people for being in situations outside of their own control, and we hope that discretion can be made by the Home Office and a lenient approach taken to people who otherwise would likely have returned to the UK in time.

 

Have questions? Get in touch today!

 

Call us on 020 7928 0276, phone calls are operating as usual and will be taking calls from 9:30am to 6:00pm.

 

Email us on info@lisaslaw.co.uk.

 

Use the Ask Lisa function on our website. Simply enter your details and leave a message, we will get right back to you: https://lisaslaw.co.uk/ask-question/ 

 

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