“Settled status” headache: updating details after passport renewals

People who have obtained “settled status” in the UK have to update the details every time they change the passport or identity card they used to apply, the Home Office requires. But users and support groups say that at the moment this is not that easy.

The EU settlement scheme (or “settled status”) was designed to replace the EU’s permanent residence system after the UK decided to leave the European Union. It is meant to grant residence and social security rights in the UK to non-British citizens from the European Union (EU), Norway, Iceland, Liechtenstein and Switzerland.

These groups can submit the application online providing the requested information, including their passport or ID number. At the end of the process, a letter from the Home Office confirms the status providing the link to a web page that can be accessed with the passport or ID number used in the application and the user’s date of birth.

You may be required to prove your status in order to demonstrate your right to work, or to access benefits and services, for example to prospective employers and landlords, the National Health Service (NHS), other Government departments and local authorities.

Home Office settled status confirmation letter.

The deadline to apply for ‘settled status’ is 31 December 2020, or 30 June 2021 if the UK approves the withdrawal agreement negotiated with the EU. By the end of June 2019, 805,000 people were granted settled or pre-settled status, the Home Office reports. For some of them, the document used in the application may have already expired or have been replaced. What to do in such cases?

How to update passport details

The system does not send a reminder if an identity document has expired, so it is up to users to remember to update the details. At present, this can be done through the online profile and sending the new passport or identity card to the Home Office for verification. But it might take a while before the new data appear online.

Robert M. from Edinburgh (he chose not to disclose his full name) went through the process and was left with many questions. A retired professor who has lived in the UK for 32 years, Robert applied for ‘settled status’ during the trial phase for university employees in November last year.

“I found the process surprisingly easy. It all went very smoothly and I got the ‘settled status’ confirmation within 24 hours,” he told Europe Street. “But my German passport expired at the end of December so I had to update the online status when I received the new passport in January.”

When he applied for settled status, Robert did not know that this would be linked to his passport number. He would have applied anyway because he was “keen to participate in the trial” as this was done “under tighter supervision”, he says. But nowhere during the application was he informed that he would need to update the details after the passport renewal.

It took him a while to understand what to do next. After contacting the Home Office, he sent the passport in by post and received it back “within 12 days with a note that the Home Office had taken notice.”

Further correspondence seen by Europe Street, however, shows that by mid-July the log in only worked using the old passport number. The Home Office explained the delay with the “exceptionally large number of new applications” and told Robert it was “unable to give a timescale for when these details will be updated.”

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The Home Office reassured Robert that this would not have any effect on his application to become a British citizen, as he is planning to do. But what about potential work contracts or travels abroad, Robert asks? “This is just another of the pitfalls of the settled status scheme that no one had envisaged before,” he says.

Barbara Drozdowicz, CEO of the East European Resource Centre (EERC), an organisation supporting East Europeans in the UK, told Europe Street that questions around passport renewals are common among people who enquire about the scheme.

“The need to send new passports or ID cards to the Home Office is a problem, especially for people who travel or live abroad,” she says. “Having ‘settled status’ allows to spend a period of time outside the country and people who have jobs elsewhere would not want to send their passports by post.”

New online function available soon

Contacted by Europe Street, the Home Office says that while at the moment new ID documents have to be sent in for manual verification, the online system will soon allow to make the changes through the “Update My Details” function.

“We are currently working on delivering a fast, secure and user friendly process for applicants to add new ID documents to their status profile through an entirely online process and expect this service to be available later this summer,” the Home Office said.

“Applicants may choose to wait for the fully digital process to be available before updating their ID document information while in the short term continuing to access their digital status using their existing document number,” they added.

The Home Office also clarified that the ‘settled status’ does not depend on the ID document it is associated to.

Generally, the Home Office says, users can continue accessing their status online by entering the document number used in the application, even if the document has expired. Once a new ID document is added, the new document number will be needed to log in.

Home Office to update settled status system in summer

Together with the option of renewing passport details online, other functions will be added to the system in the coming weeks, the Home Office has said.

The ‘Update my Details’ service will allow to change users’ photos too.

By the end of July it should be possible to convert pre-settled status to settled status online, a functionality currently not available. (Pre-settled status is acquired when a person has lived in the UK for less than five years and guarantees fewer rights than settled status.)

Later this year, the app to self-verify the applicants’ identity, which currently works only on Android phones, will be available on Apple devices too.

Demands for a physical document

Despite the improvements to the online system, the EERC and EU citizens’ rights groups such as the3million insist that a physical document should be issued to EEA nationals to prove their legal status in the UK.

At a meeting of the House of Lords EU Justice sub committee last week, Baroness Sarah Ludford asked the Home Office to offer the option at least to people who request it.

Immigration Minister Caroline Nokes, however, rejected the idea. “EEA nationals already get a letter confirming their status but that’s not a secure document, and we believe that the digital route provides the most secure means for somebody to evidence their rights to access services in the UK,” she said.

Claudia Delpero © all rights reserved.

Photo: “Europe Direct” contact centre, an information service provided in all languages by the European Union. Photo by Lukasz Kobus © European Union, 2019, Source: EC – Audiovisual Service.

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