Joining family members can now apply for pre-settled status whilst in the UK as visitors

From now on, joining family members of the EEA citizens can apply for pre-settled status whilst in the UK as visitors. This is very good news for all those who already joined their spouses, children, or parents in the UK, without first applying from outside the UK to join them.

What does this change of law mean though?

Let’s say that George, a Romanian national, started his residency in the UK before 31 December 2020. Say, in November 2020. George applied for pre-settled status in April 2021 and has been so lucky to receive a favourable decision by now.

Maria, George’s wife since 2015, entered the UK in September 2021, with a view to remain in the UK for longer. She was unaware that she was supposed to apply from Romania to get permission to join George. She was missing George, who could not travel to Romania due to his job and the pandemic restrictions to travel, so Maria booked and took a flight to London, and entered the UK as a visitor, although she did not know what her status in the UK actually was. Frankly, Maria had never contacted an immigration lawyer, and had no idea at the time of her arrival (and she has no idea today) what the difference between a visitor and a joining family member might be.

What Maria knows is that she wants to remain with George in the UK. She wants to work, pay tax and National Insurance contributions, contribute to the family budget and so on. She wants to be a “joining family member”.

A “joining family member” is a close relative (spouse, child under 21, dependent child over 21, or dependent parent) of a relevant sponsor like George. To satisfy the definition of a joining family member, the family relationship must have existed before the 31 December 2020 (save for a child born or adopted after 1 January 2021) and must continue to exist at the date of application.

So far, Maria was not eligible to apply for pre-settled status from within the UK. This is because one of the requirements she had to satisfy was not to be in the UK as a visitor. And she has been all this time in the UK precisely as a visitor, despite her belief that she entered the UK for good, to live with her husband.

The latest changes to the EU Settlement Scheme allow Maria, a joining family member, to make her application to join George from within the UK, even though she remains a visitor at the date of application, and for the entire period a decision is pending.

The Home Office, in their Explanatory Memorandum laid before Parliament on 10 September 2021, confirm that these changes regarding joining family members are introduced “to improve clarity”.

I am now in the realm of speculation, but my impression is that so many applications to join family members have been submitted by applicants already in the UK as visitors, that probably the Home Office has concluded that it would be better to change the rules than to refuse thousands of applications which did not meet the requirements. This is how I translate the words “to improve clarity” in the Explanatory Memorandum.

If you want to apply for settled or pre-settled status and need specialist advice, feel free to contact me. Please note that I am an accredited immigration adviser, not an employee of the UK Visas and Immigration. I charge fees for the advice provided.