TIME is running out for EU nationals to secure formal immigration status in the UK – and prospective applicants could face immediate and serious difficulties if they miss the upcoming deadline.
That’s the warning from immigration law firm Fragomen for Europeans seeking the official right to live and work in this country.
With freedom of movement ending on December 31, 2020 following Brexit, the Home Office has set up the EU Settlement Scheme (EUSS) – a relatively simple online process to enable applicants to confirm their status and continue to live in the UK beyond June 30, 2021.
EU nationals – and their family members if applicable – need to apply before the June 30 deadline. They can qualify if they lived in the UK before free movement ended and, for most people, the application process takes no more than 20 minutes.
Those who qualify but do not apply will be in the UK illegally from July 1, 2021, and subject to the Home Office’s often criticised hostile environment for immigration.
Kelly Hardman, an Edinburgh-based solicitor with Fragomen’s UK office, says they’ll be unable to start a new job, rent a new flat, receive some forms of healthcare or access other fundamentals of day-to-day life.
She added: “It’s so important that Europeans check if they qualify for the scheme and apply before the deadline. The Home Office will accept late applications but only within narrowly defined circumstances, and there’s no guarantee they will be granted.
“There is a real and serious risk that potentially thousands of people will be left undocumented in the UK. They will be prevented from accessing services and in the most serious cases could be required to leave.
“It would also be wrong for individuals to rely on a satisfactory resolution via the courts. Even a successful outcome would likely result in them facing those same employment, accommodation or healthcare access problems for several months.
“Applications don’t take long – the process can be completed via an app – and we’d urge people to apply sooner rather than later, otherwise their lives could be turned upside down.”
Fragomen has a dedicated Brexit website to help employers and employees understand the scheme and guide them through the process. There are a number of materials that can be accessed free of charge including guides and checklists to help individuals navigate the EUSS and new immigration system that came into effect in December 2020.
Kelly said: “There are concerns that many thousands of people will not apply on time because they’re not aware of the scheme or are unable to access it. We’re hoping our information pack will help to address that issue.
“In the meantime, our view is that the Home Office should undertake to accept all late applications and subject them to swift consideration as a means of removing some of the avoidable distress inherent in their current approach.”
Fragomen is a law firm dedicated exclusively to immigration services worldwide. The firm has more than 4,200 immigration professionals and support staff in more than 50 offices across the Americas, Europe, Middle East, Africa and Asia Pacific. Fragomen offers immigration support in more than 170 countries.