Well Over Five Million Apply to the EU Settlement Scheme
According to the latest government statistics, as of the end of April 2021, a whopping 5.42 million applications have been made to the EU Settlement Scheme (EUSS), and of these, 5.12 million had been processed and concluded. Applications to the scheme crossed the five million mark back in February, and at the current rate of progress, it may even be possible to get close to or even exceed the six million mark. Hailing the success of the scheme so far and reaching the landmark of five million applications, Home Secretary Priti Patel said, “It is fantastic news that over 5 million applications have been made to the hugely successful EU Settlement Scheme. It’s the biggest scheme of its kind in UK history and will mean European citizens and their families can continue to call the UK home”. Kevin Foster, the Minister for Future Borders and Immigration, also said, “It’s great news there have been more than 5 million applications to the EU Settlement Scheme ahead of the 30 June deadline”. He went on to reiterate the importance of meeting the deadline; “my message to European citizens and their family members is simple – apply now and join the millions who have already been through the simple process to secure their status”. In this article, we will discuss what we know about applications so far to the EU Settlement Scheme and whether the Home Office is doing enough to raise awareness of the scheme and its deadline.
Home Office Investing In Campaign To Reach Those Who Have Not Applied To The EUSS
Back in February 2021, the Home Office announced it was investing several million pounds into widening the awareness of the looming EUSS deadline at the end of June 2021. An extra £1.5 million was put into advertising campaigns to make EU citizens and their family members aware of the scheme and deadline. And another £4.5 million has been earmarked for grants to be made available to 72 organisations offering support to vulnerable and hard-to-reach EU immigrants in the UK. As the press release stated, “This includes victims of human trafficking or domestic abuse, those with severe mental health conditions, those without a permanent address, and those who are elderly or isolated”.
Is The Home Office Doing Enough To Ensure EU Nationals Apply To The EUSS By The Deadline?
Whether the government is doing a good job of reaching out to those who are yet to apply depends on who you ask. In a recent article, we wrote about how the Home Office has recently written to several people to remind them to apply, who already have citizenship. While it is positive that the Home Office is writing to people to implore them to apply to the EUSS, the poor targeting of letters suggests they are using inaccurate data. And correspondingly, they may be missing people who need to know about the deadline.
Ultimately, the problem will be in reaching those who are uncontactable or unable to apply, perhaps due to age, disability, vulnerability, or illness. The Home Secretary did, however, offer some reassurance back in April 2021 that late applications will be considered where there is a genuine reason; “Where someone has reasonable grounds for missing the deadline, they will be given a further opportunity in which to apply. As with all aspects of the scheme, we will take a flexible and pragmatic approach”.
This updated guidance for case officers explains that they should exercise discretion where there are grounds to do so, including for:
- Children in care or care leavers who did not have an application made on their behalf.
- Those lacking the physical or mental capacity to apply.
- Cases involving serious medical conditions or significant medical treatment.
- Victims of modern slavery
- Those in an abusive or controlling relationship or situation
- Other compelling practical or compassionate reasons
It should also be pointed out that the EUSS is not closing for applications at the end of June 2021, contrary to the understanding of many. Not only will it need to remain open for late applications for the reasons listed above, but it will also need to continue to process applications for full settled status for those who were granted more time to stay in the UK on pre-settled status.
Despite the reassurances of the Home Office and the Home Secretary, many remain unconvinced that late applications will be given due consideration. This is understandable given the ongoing hostile environment policy towards some immigrants in the UK. For this reason, there is a push by some MP’s to remove the deadline entirely. Neale Hanvey MP recently wrote a letter to the Prime Minister which contained the signatures of 50 asking him to do exactly this. Hanvey stated, “The more than fifty parliamentarians who have signed my letter now call on the prime minister to urgently remove this arbitrary and inhumane deadline and grant automatic settled status to all EU citizens resident in the UK as a matter of urgency”.
Some have praised the government’s investment in external organisations that work with the most vulnerable EU migrants in the UK. Marianne Lagrue, from the CORAM Children’s Legal Centre, which has received some funding from the Home Office, said, “It is positive that the Home Office has provided funding for charities, local authorities and community organisations to reach some vulnerable EU citizens and family members, and that it continues for a short time beyond the EUSS deadline”. She has tempered this praise, however, explaining that there is a high level of need and the money will not allow them to reach everyone.
It is positive that the number of applications to the EUSS is far in excess of the number of EU nationals even the government thought lived in the UK. It is always going to be the case that no matter what resources the Home Office commits to finding all of those who need to apply to the scheme, many will never make the deadline, for one reason or another. We can only hope they keep their word and remain open to genuine late applications.
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