The British Government has said that tens of thousands of European Union (EU) citizens living in the UK who, if they have not applied for their post-Brexit resident status within a week, will receive a formal notice that they have 28 days to apply or they will risk consequences, including losing their rights to health care and employment.
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One week from Wednesday June 30, when the deadline for the EU Citizen Settlement Program is up, the UK Home Office is redoubling efforts to reach out to those who have not heard of the change in laws, including vulnerable groups such as the elderly and children in care.
Kevin Foster, Secretary of State for Immigration, has said that despite the huge increase in the number of applications (they receive between 10,000 and 12,000 per day), extending the deadline has been ruled out. “Simply, extending the term is not the solution to reach people who have not yet requested it, we would simply find ourselves in a position later in which we would be asked to extend it again, creating more uncertainty.”
However, it has also said that on July 1 social benefits will not be interrupted for EU citizens who have not submitted their application on time. He also promised that the Interior Ministry will be flexible and lenient.
5.6 million requests
The Interior Ministry has received 5.6 million applications from EU citizens to obtain residence status, some of them repeated. The authorities speak of a delay of some 400,000 applications, the processing of which could take until the end of the summer.
The helpline number has received 1.5 million calls and there were half a million requests on the internet contact form, which speaks to the unprecedented scale of the operation and the difficulties many people face. .
To accommodate everyone who has not received a response to their petition in months, Foster says applicants will be able to use a government-issued “application certificate” “as evidence to maintain their right to work or rent. “They can also use it to access the health system [NHS, por sus siglas en inglés]. “People will not lose their benefits next week,” the secretary of state in the House of Lords told members of a commission.
The Interior Ministry communicated during a press conference on Tuesday that, instead of proceeding to deportation, it will follow each particular case to find out the reasons for the people who are not submitting their application. “We will set up an assistance service and guide people to submit the application, but we understand that there could be some people who after those 28 days still will not have been able to submit an application, and then I think we will want to work together with them to understand what it is due, and then to help them again to submit the application, “said an official.
Interior has confirmed that if, after 28 days, a person has not submitted their application, “they may be subject to coercive action and will not be eligible for work, benefits or services.” And he adds: “The decision to take these measures will be made in accordance with the immigration policy guidelines for violators of immigration law and after a careful assessment of the individual’s circumstances.”
Flexibility will not be permanent
This flexibility is not expected to become the permanent criterion. According to immigration rules, EU citizens who submit their application after the deadline will have to provide “reasonable reasons” explaining why they did not do so. Among those who will receive that formal 28-day notice are EU citizens who cannot prove their right to work and who will be able to be identified by immigration teams that carry out checks on employers.
The Home Office says the NHS will remain available to those who present a certificate of application and will never deny “emergency treatment”. They also sent a warning to employers and landlords: they must not do retrospective checks on their workers or tenants; and they could be charged with discrimination if prospective workers or tenants are turned away for not yet having official post-Brexit resident status.
The new rules were introduced in the wake of the UK’s departure from the EU and are designed to protect people who were living in the UK when Brexit came into force on January 1, 2021, as well as British citizens who they had been established in the EU before that date.
The Home Office says it is concerned about the possibility that British citizens living in some EU countries, such as Bulgaria, Italy and Portugal, would have problems derived from reciprocal residence rights, and that they had exposed this to the ambassador on Tuesday. of the EU.
The British Government’s policy is partly explained by the Brexit promise to “regain control” of the borders and reduce immigration.
Translated by Francisco de Zárate.