Advice NI continues free EU Settlement Scheme support services

The current circumstances are extremely challenging for all of us, with access to services and support restricted by the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic.

This concern is heightened for EEA nationals and their family members, whose rights will be affected by Brexit from 30 June 2021. Advice NI continues to offer support to those people throughout the current emergency.

In order to protect their right to live, work and study in the UK the majority of EEA nationals are required to make an application to the EU Settlement Scheme (EUSS). This allows those eligible to access either pre-settled or settled status depending on how long they have been resident in the UK. If those eligible apply to the EU Settlement Scheme successfully, settled or pre-settled status will allow the holder to continue living and working in the UK after 30 June 2021.  

Since April 2019 Advice NI, its members and partners have been working hard to support as many eligible people across Northern Ireland as possible to obtain pre-settled or settled status. This support has been provided through digital, face-to-face and telephone advice channels and has focussed especially on our community’s most vulnerable citizens, many of whom face difficulties accessing or navigating an online application or proving eligibility and residency. 

As pre-settled or settled status obtained through  the EUSS will allow the holder to continue to access support and services, such as benefits, it is perhaps more important now than ever to provide assistance to those most in need. Anyone making an application to the EUSS, or who is unsure whether they should apply, is encouraged to contact our Freephone helpline on 0800 138 6545 from Monday to Friday between 10am and 4pm. Alternatively, they can email or text EUSS to 66644 to request a call back. We can also provide an interpretation service for those who do not feel confident communicating in English.

Advice NI is endeavouring to continue as complete a service to its EUSS clients as possible during the current crisis, albeit within the restrictions advised by the Public Health Agency to protect clients, staff and the wider community. Please get in touch if you would like to discuss access to the service or you would like us to facilitate an information session. Also, we would appreciate if you could circulate the details of the service to relevant contacts. 

Example Scenarios

We have included some scenarios below to give better understanding of how seriously people could be affected if they do nothing.

Beatrice has lived in Northern Ireland for over 25 years. She is a Danish national who met and married an Irish man when she was a student. “I’ve lived most of my life in Northern Ireland; my children were born here” she says. “I don’t think this EUSS requirement to register applies to me? I’m part of my local community already.”  Thinking that the requirement to apply to the EUSS applies only to recently arrived EU ‘migrants’, she takes no steps to register for settled status before the deadline (June 30, 2021) expires. In August 2021, Beatrice becomes unwell and after a series of tests is diagnosed with cancer. Her doctor wants to organise hospital treatment. As a preliminary step, Beatrice is asked to demonstrate that she is lawfully in the UK and entitled to free use of NHS services. She is unable to do this as she has not gained ‘settled status’; she is told that she is not entitled to free treatment but must pay for it.

Paolo is a Lithuanian national who has lived in Northern Ireland for the last five years; he works in a food factory whenever the work is available. He has limited English and is unaware of the political changes happening in the UK and the need to apply for the new immigration status for EU nationals through the EUSS. In September 2021, his boss tells him there is a vacancy for a supervisor in the factory and encourages him to apply. As part of the application, Paolo must demonstrate that he is lawfully in the UK and entitled to work here. He is unable to do so and loses both this opportunity and his intermittent employment at the factory.

Roman is a Romanian national living in Belfast for over 10 years. A friend has helped him to complete his application to the EUSS. As he has been working in a car wash for cash payments, his DWP tax and National Insurance records are incomplete. He can show he has lived in the UK for at least one year, but doesn’t have the documentary evidence to prove he has been continuously resident here for at least five years. 
He decides to apply to ‘pre-settled status’ as it is easier to prove that he is currently in the UK. In 2025, Roman’s pre-settled status expires. He should have applied for settled status but is unaware that he must do this. He has no legal right to live, work, access health or other services in the UK.

Olivia is a Bulgarian national who has lived in Northern Ireland for seven years. Since arriving in the UK she has worked in a local care home. Olivia was advised she was entitled to ‘permanent residence’ – a technical legal term – under EU law (as previously existed) and could get a document from the Home Office to prove this. She made an application for permanent residency and has a document to prove that she has ‘permanent residence’. Thinking that she is protected by this document, Olivia does not apply for settled status under the new EUSS. As a result, from 30 June 2021 she has no legal right to live, work, access health or other services in the UK.