EU nationals living and working in Scotland's rural areas can apply for 'settled status' that will allow them to stay post-Brexit – but there is concern that many of them are either unaware of this option, or confounded by the system.

The Citizens' Rights Project, which has been formed specifically to give EU nationals free assistance with their applications, is this month reaching out to farmers to ask that they highlight this service to their overseas employees.

Speaking to The Scottish Farmer, organiser Gabriela Ingle said that farmworkers, although central to the debate about immigration and Brexit, were often remote from the networks that keep EU Nationals up to date with their legal status and future options.

"The forthcoming immigration system, that will be implemented from January, looks rather unfriendly and the farmers may struggle to find new people to work on the farms," warned Ms Ingle, who called on farmers to put their existing EU workers in touch with the Citizens' Rights Project for free advice and help with achieving EU Settled Status.

There are two types of immigration status that the EU nationals currently living in the UK can obtain – the first is pre-settled status, which is for residents who have lived in the UK less than five years; the second is full settled status for those who have lived in the UK for five or more years. Crucially, the former can progress to the latter.

"It looks simple, but there are further complications to the system," said Ms Ingle. "For example, people who have pre-settled status, and who want to apply for settled status, are not allowed to leave the UK for more than six months during any 12-month period. That can refer to the seasonal workers, who help at the farms over the summer.

"From the beginning of January 2021 it will be farmers' duty to check whether their overseas employees have right to work in the UK – and the government may implement fines if this duty is neglected," she added. "Therefore it is in the farmers' interest to encourage the EU employees to apply to the EUSS before the end of this year."

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