IMA statement on work to address concerns raised with EU Settlement Scheme

Our updates ,
Public bodies ,

This statement provides an update regarding the IMA’s understanding of the implications of the Home Office exercise to update the UK Visas and Immigration (UKVI) accounts of EU Settlement Scheme (EUSS) applicants who received a refusal decision between 27 June 2021 and 19 April 2022 (the ‘Cohort’).

The UKVI accounts of the Cohort continued to show a Certificate of Application (CoA) rather than a refused status until updated as part of the Home Office exercise in January 2023. The IMA has been liaising with the Home Office and Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office (FCDO) to understand the reasons for the update and implications for citizens.

The IMA understands that individuals within the Cohort had received a final decision on their EUSS application in the form of a decision letter, in the usual way, and either did not appeal (and/or request an administrative review) or had exhausted their appeal rights. The Cohort do not continue to benefit from temporary rights under the Withdrawal and Separation Agreements (WA).

The IMA does not consider the fact that the UKVI accounts of the Cohort continued to show a CoA overrides the refusal decision and therefore does not provide continued temporary rights. Those rights only continue for as long as a decision (or any appeal) is awaited on their application. A final decision had been reached and sent to individuals within the Cohort, and included information about how to appeal a decision. The fact that the UKVI accounts of the Cohort continued to show a CoA does not extend the time limit for bringing the appeal.

Notwithstanding the position in relation to these individuals, the IMA has a continued interest in the integrity of the EUSS itself. As a result, the IMA has sought to understand why CoAs were available to individuals whose applications had been determined and consequences arising.

The Home Office has indicated that prior to April 2022, the EUSS digital status system did not have the capability to reflect that an administrative review or appeal was pending in respect of an individual’s case. As a result, the IMA understands that a decision was taken to suspend reflecting ‘refused’ status on UKVI accounts to ensure individuals could continue to access WA rights while any administrative review and/or appeal was pending. From April 2022, the ability to reflect pending administrative reviews and appeals was possible. Refusal decisions made from this point were reflected on digital status. It was also necessary to conduct a retrospective exercise to reflect refused statuses on the Cohort’s UKVI accounts, and this was undertaken in January 2023. The IMA understands that the decision made to continue access to a CoA was to ensure citizens’ rights protections.

A consequence of retaining a CoA for refused applicants was that some individuals within the Cohort may have continued to access UK government benefits and services to which they were not entitled. We understand this was the case with some benefits through the Department of Work and Pensions and may have also affected access to educational funding and medical treatment. We understand that relevant government departments were aware of the presence of CoAs for refused applicants, and presumably the potential for overpayment as a result, from August 2021.

The IMA understands that relevant departments are now in the process of contacting affected citizens in order to stop payments to those with no current entitlement, and in some cases recover funds made available to citizens from the point of refusal of their EUSS application. In this regard, the IMA acknowledges the legal requirement upon departments to recover funds in such circumstances and understands that departments will seek to support citizens to limit hardship.

The IMA will be engaging with the devolved governments to understand their approach regarding recovery.

The IMA will continue to monitor further enhancements to digital status affecting the accuracy of EUSS information. Whilst this exercise sought to provide protections to the Cohort, the IMA will continue to liaise with the Home Office and the FCDO to understand implications of future changes to the EUSS and the implications across government.