EU settlement scheme passes 3.5 million mark

The UK's Home Office announced on Thursday that the "milestone" of more than 3.5 million applications under the EU Settlement Scheme had been passed.

The department hailed the scheme as "the biggest of its kind in British history", but the data raised further questions about how many EU citizens are actually permanently resident in the UK. Until now, the government has quoted a figure of 3.4 million from continental Europe, plus 300,000 from the Republic of Ireland, who do not have to register under the scheme but may do so.There is still just over a year to go before closure of the scheme, which entitles EU nationals to permanent settlement in Britain after they have lived in the country for five years, and the campaign group, the3million, has expressed fears that many vulnerable residents still do not know about the scheme.In response, the government announced a further £8 million of funding earlier this year to help vulnerable EU citizens to apply. Last year, £9 million was awarded to 57 charities across the UK last year to help people register.
Immigration Minister Kevin Foster said: "EU citizens are part of the fabric of our society. They are our friends, family and neighbours, enriching our culture and community. I am therefore pleased we’ve already had more than 3.5 million applications, with over a year left until the deadline."The scheme is the biggest of its kind in British history and there’s still plenty of time left to apply."
Publication of the latest figures coincided with updates to the immigration rules being laid in parliament, which included changes to the EU Settlement Scheme.The Home Office said: "The rule changes will widen access to the scheme for victims of domestic violence or abuse. If a family member’s relationship with an EEA citizen breaks down permanently as a result of domestic violence or abuse, this, coupled with their own continuous residence in the UK, will be recognised as part of their application."This underlines the government’s wider commitment to tackling domestic violence and abuse as well as protecting and supporting victims of it."The rule changes also mean that family members of British or dual British-Irish citizens from Northern Ireland will be able to apply for status under the EU Settlement Scheme."This delivers on the commitment the UK government made in the ‘New Decade, New Approach’ agreement in January 2020 which restored the power sharing executive in Northern Ireland."

Read more news and views from David Sapsted.

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