| Interview conducted by Cécile Faure | Février 2021 |


On Thursday 21st January, the UK Government released EU Settlement Scheme Statistics as of 31st December 2020.

Of 4.88 million applications (+20% from September 2020) made across the UK, there have been nearly 4.4 million applications from England, 243,600 from Scotland, 80,700 from Wales and 78,500 from Northern Ireland up to the end of September 2020. To that date, 4.3 million grants of status have also been given, securing millions of European’s rights in UK law.

In October last year, we had focused our interview on the EU Settlement Scheme as the transition period was coming to an end, and on the uncertainties faced by many due to the Covid-19 Pandemic. Today, Brexit has happened, the EU Settlement Scheme is still running and the new point-based immigration system is now in force. We chose here to ask Kevin Foster to address the situation of those who do not qualify for the employee status.


Point-Based Immigration System



For many years young Europeans have come to the UK as au-pairs. There are currently no provisions in the immigration law permitting au pairs to stay here and provide paid support to a family. Is it the Government’s intention to NOT make it possible in the future?

Kevin Foster MP: Those who arrived in the UK before December 31st will be able to apply to the EU Settlement Scheme and continue working in whatever role they would want including as au-pair. But like for our non-EU immigration system since 2008, there is no dedicated route for au-pairs under our new immigration system. People who arrive under our immigration system general rule of right to work can choose to work as an au-pair if they wish to. And that is the reason why there is not a dedicated route for au-pairs under our point-based immigration system.

The previous government ended the au-pair visa scheme for a number of reasons and we do not intend to introduce a specific au-pair route under the point-based immigration system.

But what we do have though with a number of countries across the World is or Youth Mobility Scheme (T5) which allow people who are aged 18 to 30 to live and work in the UK for up to 2 years, and they may choose to work as an au-pair if that is what they wish to do.

Ed.: one must apply no earlier than 3 months before one travels, and it should take 3 weeks (15 working days) to get a decision if you apply from outside the UK. The cost of application is £244. If you are already in the UK, you may ask for a priority service and obtain a decision within 5 working days at an extra cost.

So, does the UK Government intend to extend The Youth mobility scheme to EU/EEA countries, that would also allow trainees and interns to gain professional experience in the UK?

Kevin Foster MP: We are hoping to negotiate with the European Union or with individual countries such as France. We do not add unilaterally countries to the Youth Mobility Scheme, but for example we negotiated one recently with San Marino [Ed. mountainous microstate dating back to 301AD surrounded by north-central Italy, of 61km2 and 34,232 inhabitants!], so we are certainly open to doing one with countries in Europe. We cannot put a specific time on that because that relies on another government agreeing a separate arrangement for UK nationals. Certainly, we are open to discussion with the EU overall or countries within the EU if it is not possible to obtain an agreement as a collective.

Ed.: One may find information on how to apply for a visa to live, study or work in France. Demands must be made before 1st July 2021 and a visa will be compulsory from 1st October 2021. Application for a visa is free.

With regards to the point-based immigration system, how can someone on a freelance status expect to develop their activity within the UK (as a subcontractor for example)?

Kevin Foster MP: Free movement has ended. So those who come to work in the UK would have to qualify according to the point-based immigration system. There is no specific route for freelance due to issues we have had with the previous ones being abused in the UK. According to the mobility agreement it is possible to apply to offer a specific service in a specific company under a contract. But there is no agreement to cover freelance workers and they will have to find a job before they relocate. And also, in the current economic circumstances, they do have to make sure they have a job and the means to live in the UK before they relocate.

Ed.: on the requirements for employment, including costs for application and health cover, please refer to the UK gov site under UK visa and Immigration, and to solicitor Beatrice Viort de la Batie’s article published in L’ECHO Magazine Decembre 2020 and online at www.lechomagazine.uk.

When looking at the most recent statistics released for the EU Settlement Scheme, the monthly figures are not as high as a year ago. It looks like the cumulative curve is plateauing. Is it because we are reaching what would have been estimated the overall number of possible EU settlement applications? Or is it due to the Covid19 pandemic, the travel restrictions or the potential economic recession, when skilled workers are in fact postponing a possible relocation to the UK?

Kevin Foster MP: Actually, we had a very strong month for applications to the EU Settlement Scheme in December just before the end of the transition period. And we have now received just under 4.9 million applications since the beginning of the EU Settlement Scheme on 28th August 2018. With over 4.3 million statuses having been granted by December 1st 2020. We will release the breakdown by nationality next month. Yet there are restrictions to travel and employers are less likely to recruit at the moment, and it will impact migration patterns.

Ed.: Up to the end of December 2020, there had been 33,700 refusals of all 4.9 million applications submitted, most on the base of eligibility, i.e. where someone does not meet the criteria for the scheme (eg. not an EU, EEA or Swiss citizen or the family member of one or they are not resident in the UK)

Do you have any message to address to our readers?

Kevin Foster MP: The UK is still open for business. Our point-based immigration system is open for applications if one wants to work or study in the UK. The difference is now that we have a system that is nationality blind. It is judging people by the skills they have to offer to the UK regardless of their passport. It is no more a two-tier system with free movement for EU citizens and point-based system for the Rest of the World.


Cécile FaureInterview conducted
by Cécile Faure