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Easier access to benefits for family members of people from Northern Ireland


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People from Northern Ireland will soon be able to sponsor non-European family members under the light-touch EU Settlement Scheme. The government has recently passed a separate but related measure: the Social Security (Income-Related Benefits) (Persons of Northern Ireland – Family Members) (Amendment) Regulations 2020. The aim of the regulations is to enable such family members to claim benefits in Great Britain “on broadly the same terms as family members of citizens of the Republic of Ireland”.

An accompanying memo explains:

Family members of citizens of the Republic of Ireland granted [pre-settled status] under the EU Settlement Scheme can access income-related benefits if the Irish citizen is exercising a qualifying EU treaty right, meaning that they are a worker, self-employed person, self-sufficient person or student, or that they have acquired a right of permanent residence or if they are a family member who has retained a right of residence. This instrument will make amendments so that a family member of a person of Northern Ireland in a comparable situation can also access income-related benefits.

Income-related benefits include Jobseeker’s Allowance, Housing Benefit and Universal Credit. The family member of a “relevant person of Northern Ireland” will be able to rely on pre-settled status granted under Appendix EU as a right to reside. This is provided that, essentially, the Northern Ireland-born sponsor would be considered to be exercising treaty rights if they had been an EU migrant.

The regulations come into force on 24 August 2020, the same date as the new Northern Ireland-specific sponsorship rules.

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Alex Piletska

Alex Piletska is a solicitor at Turpin Miller LLP, an Oxford-based specialist immigration firm where she has worked since 2017. She undertakes a wide range of immigration work, including family migration, Points Based System applications, appeals and Judicial Review. Alex is a co-founder of Ukraine Advice Project UK and sits on the LexisPSL panel of experts and Q&A panel. You can follow her on Twitter at @alexinlaw.