Most citizens of EU countries who wish to stay in the UK after it leaves the EU must apply for settled or pre-settled status under the EU Settlement Scheme programme (EUSS). Those who are granted settled or pre-settled status face greater restrictions than they would have under free movement rules. For example, settled status eligibility can be lost if continuous stay requirements are not met. Furthermore, those with pre-settled status need to prove their right to reside in order to access certain benefits and, were they to have a child in the UK, their child would not automatically become a UK citizen at birth. For more information about EU citizens’ access to benefits under the EUSS, see the House of Commons Library briefing, How can EU nationals access UK benefits?
Research suggests that these policy interventions, which change the rights of EU citizens in the UK, will affect a range of integration processes, such as civic participation and sense of belonging (e.g., Spencer and Charsley, 2016; Ranta and Nancheva, 2018). For more information on integration in the UK, see the Migration Observatory’s Policy Primer: Integration.
Grants of settled and pre-settled status have declined during the COVID-19 crisis. This could be seen to strengthen claims that the crisis has made it particularly difficult for some EU nationals to apply to the scheme (e.g., Lazarowicz and Peszkowska, 2020). It could also be viewed as in keeping with ongoing trends — as coverage grows more complete, the number of grants of status should begin to taper off (Home Office, 2020: 7). It is possible that both interpretations are correct.
The Home Office releases local authority level data on the EUSS on a quarterly basis. This publication contains information on applications by nationality, applications by age group and concluded applications by outcome. It is important to bear in mind the many limitations of these data, which are classified as Experimental Statistics (more information on this classification available here). Perhaps most critically, these data: do not indicate how many people are eligible to apply for the EUSS or how many have not applied; include an unknown number of applications lodged by people who have already left the UK; include multiple applications launched by the same person, effectively ‘double counting’. For more information on what the data do and do not say, see the Migration Observatory report, Not Settled Yet? Understanding the EU Settlement Scheme using the Available Data.