Home Office Pledges Additional Funds to Help At-Risk EU Citizens Apply to the EU Settlement Scheme (EUSS)
The EU Settlement Scheme (EUSS) closed for applications on 1st July 2021, but it is believed there are many eligible EU nationals who have not applied due to their circumstances. As a result, in October 2021, the Home Office announced additional funding to help EU nationals who are at risk or vulnerable to apply to the EUSS. In this article, we will look at the additional funding being made available by the government for at-risk EU nationals who have yet to apply to the EU Settlement Scheme and how this funding may be used.
Large numbers of vulnerable EU nationals still to apply to the EUSS
Estimates vary on the number of people from the EU living in the UK who are eligible for Pre-Settled or Settled Status under the EUSS but did not apply because they are vulnerable or at risk. One group of concern is those who are aged 65 or over. In the region of 2% of all applications received by the EUSS were from those aged 65 or older, suggesting that many in this age group have simply not applied. As reported in the Guardian, one charity supporting older Europeans stated that they had “encountered many individuals who have no mobile phone, no digital access and inappropriate or no documentation”. As such, challenges with language and access to digital technology has become a barrier for many who are eligible for the EUSS but either don’t understand the need to apply or how to do so.
In the words of Lord Kinnoull, the chair of the House of Lords European affairs committee, “The fact that only 2% of applicants are aged over 65 suggests older people may have been missed or simply couldn’t apply by the deadline. These people need more comprehensive legal safeguards to ensure late applications do not count against them securing their rights to remain here”. He went on to say, “Without physical documents, EU citizens living here may have challenges securing tenancies, for example. Our government has welcomed the EU’s decision to issue a physical document to all UK citizens in Europe while resisting calls to do the same for EU citizens in Britain. Ministers must explain this contradiction”.
In addition to those 65 and older, there are several other vulnerable and at-risk groups of EU nationals who have not been able to apply, including children in care who did not have an application made for them, those with disabilities which prevent them from applying, and those in coercive and controlling personal relationships and victims of domestic abuse.
What funding has the government made available to assist vulnerable and at-risk EU nationals?
According to a press release by the Home Office in mid-October 2021, they have made an additional £3m available to “help vulnerable and at-risk EU citizens apply to the EU Settlement Scheme (EUSS)”. The aim is for the funds to be distributed across 72 existing grant-funded organisations supporting eligible EU nationals to make late applications to the EUSS. As the press release states, “This will ensure that provision remains in place for eligible EU citizens with reasonable grounds for missing the 30th June 2021 deadline to access the support, they need to make a late application”.
Announcing the additional funding, Minister for Future Borders and Immigration Kevin Foster stated, “Supporting vulnerable EU citizens has been an important focus of our approach to the EU Settlement Scheme.
I am happy we are continuing to fund the network of 72 grant-funded organisations so they can continue to provide such invaluable assistance and advice to vulnerable EU citizens and their families during the application process. I encourage anyone who is eligible to make a late application to apply and join the millions who have been granted status, contacting any of the grant-funded organisations if they need additional help”.
One charity supporting vulnerable EU nationals applying to the EUSS is NOAH Enterprise in Luton. Paul Prosser, who represents the charity, has welcomed the additional funding stating, “The Home Office funding has allowed us to dedicate specialist resources to find and meet individuals in need across Luton and deliver holistic and accessible support”.
Will the funding be enough to help vulnerable and at-risk EU nationals secure their immigration status?
There is every reason to expect that by providing funding directly to those charities already at the front-line supporting EU nationals to make late applications, the £3m will have a positive impact and hopefully bring about more applications from vulnerable and at-risk individuals. These organisations and charities include Citizens Advice, local councils, local projects, independent legal advice centres, and other charitable institutions. A full list of the support organisations can be found online.
Another challenge facing the Home Office and EUSS applicants is simply processing any new applications. According to recent statistics, the Home Office has now received over 6.2m applications to the EUSS, of which around 172,000 were received after the 30th June 2021 cut-off date. The Home Office now have a backlog of approximately 400,000 EUSS applications, meaning that even if a person is eligible to make a late submission, its processing will be somewhat delayed.
Remember, although the EUSS deadline of 30th June 2021 has come and gone, the scheme is still open for late applications and those switching from pre-settled to settled status. EU nationals with a reasonable ground for applying late should have no problem in making a successful application for pre-settled or settled status. There are several grounds that can be used to make an application, and this will continue to be the case for the foreseeable future. If you need any help with your late EUSS application, speak to an immigration Solicitor who will be able to handle your case and guide you through the end-to-end process.