The mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, has again called for the end of settlement scheme fees for EU nationals applying for settled status in the UK.
Back in December, it was announced that the Greater London Authority would pay the settlement scheme fees for any staff that are EU nationals. If the government does not scrap the settlement scheme fees, then the Greater London Group could end up with a very large bill given the number of EU employees across the organization plus the numbers of EU staff employed by Transport for London and the Metropolitan Police.
The mayor’s calls for the scrapping of settlement scheme fees for EU citizens has won backing from the top London immigration solicitors as well as many industry leaders, trade unions and large and small employers.
You may think that the calls to scrap the settlement scheme fees to apply for settled status is a “storm in a teacup” as after all each applicant only has to pay £65 to apply for settled status. When you first look at it, the £65 fee does not sound that bad but Sadiq Khan forcefully makes the point that for a low paid worker on minimum wage it is a lot to find. The best London immigration solicitors have already pointed out that for a family of 2 adults and 2 children the fee adds up to £260. To most London families that is not small change.
Why is Sadiq Khan so forceful in his views on the settlement scheme fees? In a letter to the government demanding changes to the planned post-Brexit immigration policy, the mayor says that making long-established EU citizens pay a settlement scheme fee to stay in their chosen country reveals that the Home Office have not taken on board the lessons of Windrush.
According to Sadiq Khan, the Home Office faces the task of registering 3.4 million EU nationals on the settled status scheme. On the mayor’s figures that is over 221 million that the UK Visas and immigration could reap in settlement scheme fees. However, not all EU citizens will register for settled status and, in any event, the fee raising will in no way offset the administrative costs of Brexit.
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London is leading the way in the call to change the settlement scheme
At the forefront of all the mayor’s comments about EU citizens applying for settled status and the costs involved is Sadiq Khan’s concerns about the economy, and in particular the financial workings and economy of Greater London.
The top London immigration solicitors are receiving calls from large and small business owners asking for help in addressing staffing issues in such uncertain times. Clued up employers recognise that if they leave it up to all their employees to sort out applying for settled status many will not make the application.
For some employees, the reason for not applying for settled status may be financial and for others it may be fear of paperwork or just a feeling of grievance. After all, as Sadiq Khan points out, why should EU citizens have to fill in paperwork to justify the tag of “settled status” when they and their family may have lived in the UK for years.
In his open letter to the Home Office, the mayor criticised the need for EU nationals to pay for settled status, likening it to the Windrush generation and those who were targeted for immigration enforcement when they could not prove their immigration status.
Sadiq Khan wrote:
“There are hundreds of thousands of young people who were born in the UK or, like the Windrush generation, brought here as young children, who are prevented from participating in the economic, social and political life of the UK by the prohibitive cost of applying for Leave to Remain or citizenship,”
The mayor went on to say that the Brexit generation are at risk from the same policies that led to the Windrush generation experiencing discrimination, destitution, and deportation. In the view of many top London immigration solicitors, it is emotive terminology to refer to settlement scheme applicants in the same terms as the Windrush generation, but many EU citizens feel as strongly as the London mayor does over the perceived iniquities of the settlement scheme.
As a minimum, Sadiq Khan has called for the waiving of the settlement scheme fee of £65 for all EU nationals who were resident in the UK at the time of the Brexit vote. The best London immigration solicitors suspect that this proposal will not meet with favour at UK Visas and immigration not least because of the additional administrative costs that would arise from trying to only bill post referendum EU citizens for settlement scheme fees.
EU settlement scheme – what does it mean to you?
Anyone from the European Union who wants to continue to live and work in the UK after Brexit, and his or her dependants, needs to apply for settled status under the settlement scheme application and pay the £65 fee.
The application for settled status is to register the EU citizen’s immigration status as either:
• An EU national with settled status because of five years UK residence; or
• An EU national with pre-settled status.
Many politicians and industry leaders fear that the whole registration process will deter EU migrant workers from wanting to stay, live, and work in the UK.
Does that matter? It is not just the best London immigration solicitors that say it does. Whatever the politics of Brexit economists are warning of potential salary rises if the UK cannot retain and continue to recruit migrant workers to the UK. For businesses, any additional recruitment costs will have to be passed onto consumers at a time of economic and political uncertainty.
How can OTS Solicitors help?
OTS Solicitors specialise in immigration for individuals and businesses. The legal directory, Legal 500, recognises OTS Solicitors expertise in immigration law.
For more information and to find out how OTS Solicitors can help your organisation meet its immigration and employment law responsibilities please call us on 0203 959 9123.