Despite elements of normality returning, the COVID-19 pandemic is still present and remains to impact international travel and people’s daily lives. Following a successful legal challenge, the Home Office have withdrawn their guidance which was published on 06 May 2021 on COVID-19 for the EU Settlement Scheme and will be publishing new guidance for applicants.
The Home Office initially intended to publish the new guidance by 31 May 2021 to provide clarity to EEA Citizens about how to secure their right to reside in the UK before the deadline for the EU Settlement Scheme on 30 June 2021.
However, the Home Office is yet to publish their new guidance for EEA Citizens, and has therefore consented to the publishing of the Acknowledgement of Service from the legal proceedings, which outlines some of the intended changes to the guidance. Barar & Associates has summaries these for you below.
EEA Citizens who have been absent from the UK for up to 12 months due to COVID-19
The new guidance confirms that those EEA Citizens who have been absent from the UK for up to 12 months due to COVID-19, will be able to rely on that absence for an important reason. The new guidance will state that EEA citizens do not themselves have to have had or be ill with COVID-19 for this to apply.
EEA citizens will also be able to rely on that absence for an important reason in the following situations:
- They are or have been self-isolating or shielding in line with local public health guidance,
- They have been or are caring for family members affected by COVID-19; or
- They have been or are unable to return to the UK due to international travel disruption.
Furthermore, those EEA Citizens who were already absent from the UK due to important reasons and have been forced to exceed the 12-month permitted absence due to COVID-19 (i.e. shielding, self-isolating, caring for family members or unable to return to the UK due to travel disruptions), will be able to exceed the maximum period of absence. Importantly, this additional time outside of the UK will not impact the EEA citizen’s continuous residency in the UK (i.e. excess time will not be classed as a break in residency in the UK). However, the time will not be counted as residency in the UK for the purposes of qualifying for settled status or indefinite leave to remain.
EEA citizens who have exceeded a 6-month period of absence due to COVID-19
The guidance is further expected to provide allowances for those EEA citizens who intended to be outside the UK for no more than 6 months but have exceed this period due to COVID-19. Such EEA citizens will be allowed to have a single absence of up to 12 months from the UK, which will be classed as an important reason. This will ensure that they EEA Citizens will not break their continuous residency in the UK.
EEA citizens who require a second 12-month period of absence due to COVID-19
Lastly, those EEA Citizens who have been absent from the UK already for a period of 12 months for an important reason, will be allowed a second period of absence from the UK, provided that are able to show that at least one of the 12-month periods, is due to COVID-19. This effectively allows those EEA citizens a 24-month period of absence from the UK.
Once again, this will not break continuous residency in the UK for EEA Citizens. However, it seems as if the second 12-month period of absence will not be counted as contributing time spent in the UK to be eligible for settled status of indefinite leave to remain.
Whilst the Home Office had intended to publish this new guidance by 31 May 2021, it is still yet to be seen when this guidance will actually be made available in full. Until then, the published Acknowledgement of Service which provided the above guidance, is welcomed ahead of the EU Settlement Scheme deadline of 30 June 2021.
Should you require assistance with the EU Settlement Scheme or making any other application, please do not hesitate to contact our friendly team of expert immigration lawyers at Barar and Associates at firstname.lastname@example.org or call us on 020 7487 8370. You can access more information about us via https://bararassociates.com/.