Home Office failed to comply with obligation to issue Certificates of Application immediately to EU Settlement Scheme applicants in some cases, IMA inquiry finds

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The UK, through the Home Office, failed to comply with its obligation under the Withdrawal and Separation Agreements to issue a Certificate of Application immediately to EU Settlement Scheme (EUSS) applicants, for particular types of application.  

EU and EEA EFTA citizens and their family members who apply to the EUSS must receive a Certificate of Application immediately. This certificate is used to evidence rights, for example the right to work, rent or access benefits, while their application is being considered.

The Independent Monitoring Authority for the Citizens’ Rights Agreements’ (IMA) launched its first inquiry to establish whether the Home Office fulfilled its obligation to issue a Certificate of Application immediately to applicants to the scheme.

The inquiry looked at two specific points in time to assess the extent to which Certificates of Application were being issued immediately: June 2021 and June 2022.

For digital applications which required no manual intervention by a caseworker, the inquiry found that the certificates were issued immediately, which accounted for the majority of applications made to the scheme via the automated digital route. For digital applications that required caseworker intervention, the inquiry identified delays due to an insufficient number of available caseworkers relative to demand.  

There were also delays in issuing certificates for applications made via paper forms. Again, this was caused by an insufficient number of available caseworkers. However, delays were also caused by an insufficient number of caseworkers trained to issue certificates for paper applications and a decision to partially create paper applications on the system without issuing a Certificate of Application.

By June 2022, the inquiry found that issuing certificates to paper applications and digital applications requiring manual intervention continued to be subject to delays as the number of available caseworkers remained insufficient in comparison to demand.  

The IMA’s recommendations to the Home Office include collecting meaningful data to monitor the time taken to validate applications to better manage the system of issuing certificates. In the absence of such data the Home Office is unable to assess the extent to which Certificates of Application are issued immediately.

The IMA also recommends adopting a service standard of five working days to issue the certificates and that the Home Office should monitor performance against that target. 

The Home Office must now publish its response to the IMA’s recommendations within three months.

Dr Kathryn Chamberlain, IMA Chief Executive said:

“While we recognise that millions of people have applied to the EU Settlement Scheme, many of whom without issues, we realised that this issue had the potential to severely impact people’s lives and their rights.

“That’s why we used our powers to conduct an inquiry as we had reasonable grounds to believe that the UK may have failed to comply with the Agreements. We will now work with the Home Office to ensure our recommendations are accepted and implemented in full so that citizens can be assured that they will receive a certificate following a valid application to the scheme in a timely manner.”