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The EU Settlement Scheme (EUSS) is a process to register EU, EEA and Swiss nationals living in the UK and to assign them either with settled or pre-settled status.
These are new immigration statuses to ensure that people living lawfully in the UK, based on the EU right to free movement prior to Brexit, can continue living here under the same conditions afterwards.
The deadline for applications to the EUSS is 30 June 2021.
This Insight explains what we know about applications to the scheme and grants of status, as the scheme draws to its official close.
How many people have applied?
As of the end of May 2021, there had been 5.6 million applications to the scheme from approximately 5.3 million people. The difference between these two numbers is due to repeat applications, some of which represent people moving from pre-settled to settled status.
The number of unique applicants is not published on a monthly basis. To estimate the number of applicants as of May 2021, the total (5.61 million) is multiplied by 93.7%, which was the proportion of applicants that were unique according to the most recent quarterly statistics (EUSS statistics March 2021, table EUSS_RA_01).
How many people have been granted settled status?
As of 31 May 2021, there had been 2,754,100 grants of settled status and 2,276,200 of pre-settled status. Considering the level of overlap between these groups (people moving from pre-settled to settled) it is likely that around 4,882,000 people have received either status through the scheme.
Refusal has been relatively uncommon. So far, around 94,000 applications have been refused, 72,000 withdrawn, and 75,000 classed as invalid (around 241,000 in total). Proportionally, there have been more unsuccessful applications decided each month as the scheme has gone on.
Nearly half of all status grants have gone to nationals of Poland, Romania, or Italy. This consistent with our estimates of the size of these populations in the UK.
How many people have yet to apply?
There is no way of knowing how many people still need to apply because we don’t know how many people are eligible.
At the start of the scheme, the Government estimated that between 3.5 million and 4.1 million people would be eligible to apply but stressed they should not be considered “minimum and maximum estimates.”
The Government had to estimate the number of people eligible because there’s no central record of people who previously derived their right to live in the UK from EU freedom of movement.
Why were there so many more applications than expected?
Although around 5.3 million people have applied to the scheme, the number granted settled or pre-settled status is closer to 4.9 million. A further 335,000 were still pending as of the end of May 2021.
Even so, 4.9 million and counting is quite a bit higher than the initial upper estimate of 4.1 million. There are a few possible explanations.
The Annual Population Survey, which is the base for the original population estimates, excludes people living in communal establishments, such as student halls and worker dormitories. Although the statisticians who run the survey try to correct for this, there is a risk that this means the migrant population has been under-counted.
Analysis by Professor Jonathan Portes, of King’s College London, looks at National Insurance Numbers (NINo) issued in recent years, and suggests the total number of people who have migrated at some point in the last two decades is far higher than a snapshot of the population at any one time would suggest.
Over 1.6 million Polish nationals were issued a NINo between 2002 and 2020. It seems unlikely that all those people would have a claim to eligibility for the EUSS now: a large share will have left, and some will have acquired British citizenship. But it does offer a partial explanation as to why there have been so many more applications than anticipated.
There might also have been a lot of applications from recent arrivals, who will not ultimately stay long-term. Over 2019 and 2020 there were over half a million NINo registrations of adults arriving from EU countries and around 300,000 enrolments of EU students at UK higher education institutes.
Not all will stay. But regardless of how long someone coming to live in the UK in recent years was intending to stay, securing pre-settled status ensures the option of long-term residence.
The real indicator of how many people made use of the scheme to secure the right to stay long term will be the eventual number granted settled status, seen several years from now.
What is the EUSS?
The EUSS exists because, in most cases, people residing in the UK based on rights derived from EU law will no longer have a legal right to reside in the UK now it has left the EU. These people must apply for the new status. If they don’t then they could be residing in the UK unlawfully.
The main categories of people who must apply are:
- EU (excluding Irish), EEA and Swiss citizens
- Family members of an EU citizen who are not themselves British or EU citizens.
In most cases, the EUSS requires applicants to scan their identity documents using the ‘EU Exit: ID Document Check’ application. Documents can also be scanned for a fee at a document scanning centre.
EU Settlement Scheme, The House of Commons Library.
About the author: Georgina Sturge is a statistician at the House of Commons Library, specialising in migration.
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