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 24 June 2021

The 30 June 2021 deadline for EU citizens in the UK to apply to the EU Settlement Scheme for their right to remain is fast approaching. Glass Door caseworker Agnieszka Nepelska breaks down the challenges our guests face now and after the deadline. 

By Agnieszka Nepelska 

I opened my email recently to find an email with a warm message of thanks from Diana*. Diana had been living and working in the UK for years but struggled to apply to the EU Settlement Scheme. Because she and her family lived in a flat without a contract and her employer paid her cash-in-hand, Diana could not provide the paper trail of her residence in the UK.

The Glass Door team had been able to help Diana produce the evidence she needed to complete her application, and Diana wanted to let me know she had just received an email from the Home Office confirming she had her “settled status”. Now she had the right to live, work, and remain in the UK indefinitely.

Diana is just one of many individuals my colleagues and I at Glass Door have supported to apply in the past two years. To date, we have achieved 294 positive settled and pre-settled status outcomes and advised and supported over 400 people.

The deadline for the new applications is fast approaching, as European citizens (by this I mean EU, EEA or Swiss citizens) have only until 30 June to apply. After this deadline, anyone who has not applied will not have a legal basis for living in the UK and may be subject to removal.

We are racing to support people who may otherwise find themselves thrust into a hostile environment overnight.

A bureaucratic but life-changing process

I’ve seen how a successful application can be life changing. Some people who had been rough sleeping for years were finally able to get the support they needed to move off the streets. Those who were granted pre-settled status are now able to live and work in the UK beyond the end of the grace period and are eligible to apply for settled status in the future.

As Diana’s example highlights, the application system can feel extremely bureaucratic and challenging, especially for people who are destitute. Many (especially if they are street homeless) struggle to keep important documents, meaning supplying proof of residency can be tricky. 

Being part of a team that has made such a difference to so many gives me such a sense of satisfaction, but I am concerned about what awaits us beyond the deadline.

What about those who don't make the deadline?

From 1 July, we will see many adults and children who have fallen through the cracks. No one knows how many people still haven’t applied. I suspect some are still not aware of the EUSS or do not believe it applies to them. Of course, it’s the most vulnerable who we worry about the most: those who are unable to navigate the digital bureaucracy, may not find information in the languages they need, or are unable to read or write.

Anyone who has not applied to the scheme will find themselves in a predicament as their rights will have drastically changed. They will not have recourse to benefits, housing, employment or free secondary health care, although exemptions may apply.

Glass Door and other specialists will try to help as much as we can, but there are many unanswered questions. For example, we do not know how long the Home Office will employ the flexible approach to late applications, which they’ve indicated will be the case. But we should expect to see these late applications for years to come.

Digital exclusion: the next challenge

Even after receiving a successful response, the challenges will continue. The only way most people can view and prove their immigration status is via a digital portal.

Those without a smart phone that they can use confidently will not be able to prove their status, leaving them struggling to navigate the housing and employment markets.

The Home Office should consider supplying some physical document in addition to the online status to minimise access issues some people may experience.

Future hopes

For the future, I hope the Home Office will continue to have a fair-minded approach to the application process and recognise the hard work and commitment of many EEA and Swiss citizens.

These individuals need to be able to seek support, rather than live in fear about their immigration status.  

Glass Door’s dedicated staff will continue to help those who turn to us navigate this ever-changing landscape while we await more certainty about the Government’s approach in the future. 

* Name changed to protect anonymity

If you'd like to help individuals apply for the settlement scheme and access vital support, please consider making a donation.