As the UK moves towards Brexit, the government is designing a system to give EU citizens who are already living in the UK ‘settled status.’ The EU-UK agreement that underpins this process is not final or legally binding, but its basic parameters are known and the government has set out the principles for implementing it. Government plans announced so far propose that the process will be mandatory, with a deadline for applying; that the application process will be streamlined and more ‘user-friendly’ than existing Home Office applications; and that the eligibility criteria will be simplified so that (almost) all EU citizens living in the UK at the point of Brexit will be eligible.
One challenge facing any large-scale government programme is coverage: how to enable everyone who is eligible to participate. For EU citizens to secure settled status, they will need to (1) know about the programme and the need to apply; (2) be able to navigate the system and make an application; and (3) be able to demonstrate that they have been living in the UK. Irish citizens will not need settled status to continue living in the UK, so are excluded where possible from the data in this report.
EU citizens living in the UK are on average a highly educated population that should not be expected to have problems understanding and navigating a simplified application process. However, securing settled status will be more difficult for certain groups of people, whether because they lack awareness of the process or the need to apply, are vulnerable for different reasons (such as abuse or exploitation), have difficulty navigating the application system, or cannot provide evidence of time spent in the UK. It is not possible to know exactly what share of EU citizens will fall into these categories but it is possible to analyse some of the characteristics associated with greater risk.