The EU settlement scheme has been widely publicized and is the government’s process for enabling EU nationals that are resident in the UK to stay indefinitely. There is a wealth of information available on the government website to set out what the scheme is, how workers can apply, and what information and evidence is required.
For full settled status, an EU national needs to provide evidence that they have lived in the UK for 5 continuous years. However, ‘continuous’ actually means having been in the UK for at least 6 months in each 12 month period. Being granted settled status means the EU national has the right to reside and work in the UK permanently and come and go as they please.
For EU nationals that have not had 5 continuous years residing in the UK, it is still possible to get pre-settled status which would grant them the ability to stay in the UK for 5 more years (from the point of approval) in order to reach the criteria to achieve full settled status.
The EU national would lose their pre-settled status if they were out of the UK for more than two years in a row, but otherwise they are free to come and go as they please. Of course, if they wanted to reach full settled status, within the 5 year period, they would need to demonstrate they have spent at least 6 months in the UK in each of the 5 years.
Also importantly, the EU national does not have to still be in the UK when they apply. The application is an online process and can be carried out wherever the worker currently is. As long as they can prove they’ve been in the UK over the last six months, they should be able to reach pre-settled status.
Seasonal workers can also apply. It is feasible that some seasonal workers may actually meet the criteria for settled status (6 month’s work, 5 years in a row). For most workers, this is probably not the case and therefore the most likely outcome is to be granted pre-settled status. The worker simply needs to demonstrate they have lived in the UK at some point over the last 6 months. Having pre-settled status gives them the ability to return and work in the UK for a further 5 years.
If, after 5 years, the EU national does not meet the criteria for full settled status, they will no longer be able to return to work in the UK through the settlement scheme. But as a short term measure until a new UK immigration policy is in place, which should include a seasonal worker scheme for horticulture, this will help bridge the gap.