By Callum May
Immigration enforcement officials will begin giving EU citizens who live in the UK a 28-day warning to apply to remain, the government says.
But the Home Office will allow people indefinite time to complete an application for settled status if they have a reasonable excuse for delay.
There is a week to go until the deadline for applications.
Some 5.6 million European Economic Area (EEA) citizens and their dependents have applied for settled status.
But there are around 400,000 cases outstanding, and the government’s helpline is receiving thousands of calls a day.
After the 2016 Brexit referendum, which took place precisely five years ago, settled status was introduced for citizens of the EU and EEA living in the UK.
It allows them to retain the same rights of residence, travel, employment and access to healthcare and benefits.
The countries whose nationals have made the highest numbers of applications are Poland (975,000) and Romania (918,000).
Immigration minister Kevin Foster said anyone whose application was not concluded by next week’s deadline would not lose out, as their rights were protected in law.ADVERTISEMENT
He added that immigration enforcement officials would begin issuing 28-day notices to people, advising them to apply for settled status.
Migrants’ groups had voiced concern that children would be among those who had not applied.
But Mr Foster said there would be an indefinite period where people who had not applied would be allowed to do so, if they had reasonable grounds.
He gave the example of students who might discover when applying to university for the first time that they do not have settled status.
Asked whether the new immigration system had made it difficult to attract EU workers, he said that “in the first instance” employers should be looking to recruit from the UK market.
“We’re giving people access on a global basis to skills that take time to train, but for jobs that take less time to train for, we do believe it’s right we encourage employers to look in the first instance to offer rewarding and good packages to domestic workers,” he told the BBC.
What is settled status?
EU nationals living in the UK have until 30 June to apply to stay in the UK.
They can apply for:
- Settled status – on offer to anyone who can prove that they had been in the UK continuously for five years or more before 31 December 2020. As of 31 May, it has been granted to 2.75 million people.
- Pre-settled status – on offer to anyone who had been in the UK for less than five years by the end of 2020. As of 31 May, it has been granted to 2.28 million. They can apply for settled status in future, but there is no guarantee they will get it.
Maike Bohn, co-founder of the EU citizens’ campaign group the3million, said: “It’s good that people can apply late, but the crux is they’re unlawful as they haven’t put an application in.
“Those eligible and not applying on time become unlawful and risk losing work, housing, access to free health care and so much more.”
Mr Foster said existing benefit claimants would not have their payments stopped immediately if they had not been granted settled status.
But he said no-one could begin a benefit claim, job, or tenancy in England without settled status.
He also said the Home Office had “changed guidance” to border officials after reports that some EU citizens had been detained for long periods at the border last month.
Speaking to the House of Lords European Affairs Committee on Tuesday, he said: “I want to get as many people through the door before the 30th [of June] as possible.”
The EEA is made up of the 27 EU states plus Iceland, Liechtenstein and Norway.
No-one knows how many EU citizens living in the UK have yet to apply for settled status, allowing them to remain here legally after next week’s deadline.
The European Union suspects there could be tens of thousands of people, many of them vulnerable, who will not have submitted their application in time.
Older people and children in care are of particular concern, and the EU is urging the Home Office to guarantee the rights of late applicants.
The UK government says it will take a “compassionate and flexible” approach, giving people who have ‘reasonable grounds’ for missing the deadline, 28 days to apply.
No action will be taken against them once an application has been submitted.
The EU, however, says Britain’s compliant or hostile environment towards migrants gives them cause for concern.
Are you an EU citizen who has yet to apply to remain in the UK? Share your stories by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.
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