I’ve been working on Appendix EU from the very beginning, and it still boggles my mind with its complexity. We can admire the Home Office for creating a practical application process (the EU Settlement Scheme) that most people will be able to use without legal assistance — while at the same time pointing out that it is an immensely complex process for those in complex situations. Those with complex immigration scenarios, who are often the most vulnerable, cannot understand the rules without legal assistance.
Coronavirus is reducing the already limited amount of free assistance out there. My firm and other organisations have been scaling back outreach and information sessions on the EU Settlement Scheme. Settled, the charity where I am a trustee, has taken the difficult decision to postpone all such events, where possible replacing them with online engagement.
Such decisions will disproportionately affect the most vulnerable, as on-the-ground outreach is the most effective way of ensuring that those who need help to apply for settled status can get it.
It is widely accepted that there will be a number of people who fail to apply before the deadline. It is just a question of how large that number will be. Every week counts in terms of keeping that number as low as possible and every week now lost to COVID-19 is another reason why we should, assuming the transition period is not extended, consider extending the Settlement Scheme deadline beyond 30 June 2021.