Home Office Writing to UK Citizens Wrongfully Warning Them To Apply for Immigration Status
As we have been reminding our readers for many months, at the end of June 2021, new applications under the EU Settlement Scheme will close. In preparation for this fast looming date, the Home Office has been sending letters to warn people of the deadline to apply for settled status. The issue is that many people who have received letters from the Home Office are already citizens of the UK. In this article, we will take a closer look at the recent correspondence sent by the UK’s Home Office warning people to apply for immigration status before the deadline for new applications to the EU Settlement Scheme.
What Did The Letter From The Home Office Say?
According to the Guardian newspaper, the letter stated, “The United Kingdom has left the European Union, so to carry on living in the UK after 30th June 2021, you and your family members need to have a UK immigration status”. As such, the letter was clearly aimed at warning EU and EEA nationals living in the UK who the Home Office believes have yet to apply under the EU Settlement Scheme.
The letter urged urgent action to ensure the recipients and their family members could continue to access benefits and NHS healthcare and retain the legal right to work in the UK.
Recipients were also advised to phone a dedicated helpline if they had any questions, which for some when called had a pre-recorded message stating, “We are experiencing a high demand for our services and currently have no more space in our call queue”.
It should be said that the letter does say (on the second page) that those who already have citizenship or EU-settled status can ignore the letter, but this will not stop many from being concerned. While it may be argued that the Government is doing the right thing in warning people before the deadline and that it is inevitable that some people may mistakenly receive the letter, it does raise legitimate concerns. Firstly, it does suggest that the Home Office is using incorrect data to target the warning letters. This may be a genuine error, or it may suggest that as far as they are concerned, at least some of the people they are writing to do not have safe immigration status in the UK. Secondly, receiving such a letter will inevitably cause considerable anxiety for many who are lawful citizens of the UK due to the perceived potential for being wrongfully requested to leave the country after 30th June 2021.
What Has Been The Response Of Those Who Have Received The Letter?
The Guardian article highlights several cases whereby the letter from the Home Office was clearly in error; it states, “Marianne Howard, 82, originally from Germany, who has been a British citizen for over 50 years; retired structural engineer George Smid, who was born in what was then Czechoslovakia and became a British citizen in 1987; Isabella Moore, originally from Poland, who has had citizenship for over 40 years and spent 33 years working as an NHS doctor; academic Jan Culik, who holds a Czech passport and naturalised in the UK 36 years ago; and architect Eva Apollo-Crawshaw, originally from Poland, who has been a British citizen for 40 years”.
Some of the letter’s recipients have been extremely panicked by its contents. The daughter of Marianne Howard, Helen Howard-Betts expressed her view that there has been a lack of cross-checking before sending the letters; “I went into a complete panic…It seems like an algorithm has done this. She has heart disease, and her blood pressure went through the roof. I can’t understand why they don’t cross-check the databases to see if someone already has permission to stay…Why create unnecessary stress by sending a letter like that to people to whom it doesn’t apply?”.
Another of the recipient’s of the letter, Isabella Moore, who is a consultant pathologist, said: “I’ve had British citizenship for the past 40 years. I don’t understand why I’m being singled out as a foreigner and told I’m getting benefits from the Department for Work and Pensions. I paid national insurance contributions for 33 years”.
Another recipient who had received two letters in the same week expressed her view that it only served to make people feel like “second-class citizens” in the UK following Brexit.
How Have Campaigners Responded?
Campaigners representing EU nationals in the UK have accused the Home Office of a ‘scattergun’ approach to sending warning letters in advance of the 30th June 2021. They are also concerned about the lack of clarity regarding those who have the right to live in the UK. Maike Bohn of the3million campaign group stated on the matter, “It is concerning that the Home Office sends frightening letters urging people to apply to the EU settlement scheme to remain eligible for benefits, and are not able to exclude those who have naturalised to become British decades ago or who already hold pre- or settled status”.
The Green party peer Natalie Bennett said the letters suggest a real failure of governmental systems, which are directly causing unnecessary stress to UK citizens, many of whom are elderly. She also pointed out that this is reminiscent of the Windrush scandal.
The Home Office has responded by stating that “In trying to reach as many people as possible, there may be a small number of cases where letters have been sent to someone who is naturalised as a British citizen or has already applied to the EUSS. In these cases, the letter makes clear that no action is required”.
As we have pointed out, the Home Office’s words may do little to reassure those who already have little confidence in the Home Office and are all too aware of the hostile environment. The concern of some will be that even though they know they are citizens, the Home Office has them listed incorrectly. Anyone who receives a letter like this should phone the number provided and request written reassurance that the Home Office understands their real status and they do not need to apply for settled status. Failing this, contact immigration solicitors as soon as possible who can do this on your behalf.