What’s wrong with the Settled Status scheme?


The government claims that EU nationals are welcome to stay in Britain after Brexit, but currently in order to stay, they have to go through the application process for what is called ‘Settled Status’.

Anyone who does not apply, or whose application is rejected, by 1 July 2021 can be criminalised and deemed to have an unlawful status in this country.

What will happen after the application deadline?

We don’t yet know exactly what will happen to EU citizens who don’t get settled status before the deadline.

However, we do know that the UK government has brought in draconian immigration checks in recent years (sometimes referred to as ‘the hostile environment’), which make the lives of people who can’t prove they have a right to be here very difficult.

In practice, an EU citizen with an ‘unlawful status’ after Brexit could be prevented from:

  • seeking or maintaining employment
  • renting a home
  • driving a car
  • accessing vital benefits
  • and more

Landlords and employers will face fines for renting to or employing EU nationals who are unable to prove their legal status. This makes them more likely to refuse homes or employment to people, even people who do have Settled Status, if they are in any doubt about it.

The government can also decide to detain and forcibly remove people who don’t have the right documentation. Even if it claims it won’t do so, or does not do so immediately, it could change that policy at any time. This is what happened to the people affected by the Windrush scandal.

How many people are affected?

It’s hard to know exactly, as there isn’t currently a register of how many EU citizens live in the UK. But we do know that no similar scheme has ever achieved a 100% success rate – so there will definitely be people who will lose their status.

Even assuming a very generous 95% success rate for the scheme, and a conservative estimate of 3.5 million EU citizens in the UK, there will still be 175,000 people losing their lawful immigration status overnight – that’s more than the number of people who live in Oxford.

Why hasn’t everyone applied?

Plenty of people have already applied successfully through the Settled Status system – but it is the most vulnerable people who struggle with it, and who may wake up on 1 July 2021 as unlawful residents in the UK. Some reasons why people struggle to apply include:

  • Lacking the digital skills or resources
  • Not having a good enough grasp of the English language
  • Not having the appropriate identification or paperwork
  • Not being aware that they need to apply for Settled Status
  • Lack of awareness that children with EU citizenship need to apply

What can I do to help?

We’re campaigning for the government to change its policy so that anyone who is here at the Brexit cut-off point gets Settled Status automatically – with a physical proof of their new immigration status via a registration system.

To achieve this, we need your help to spread the word. You can share the campaign on social media using the buttons below:


Share on Facebook Share on Twitter Get email updates


A campaign by Another Europe is Possible, supported by JCWI.