Woman Rejected for Settled Status Having Lived in the UK For 17 Years
As most of our readers will know, EU nationals living in the UK have until the end of June 2021 to apply to the EU Settlement Scheme to retain the right to reside here. The scheme enables EU citizens who arrived in the UK to live before the end of 2020 to secure either Pre-Settled or Settled Status (the latter applies if they have been living in the UK for five or more years). You would think then that a lawful EU national who has been living here for 17 years would have no problem applying to the EU Settlement Scheme, but a recent case proves this is not necessarily the case. In this article, we will discuss the case of 27-year-old Dahaba Ali, an EU national who has lived in the UK since the age of ten, who was recently refused Settled Status in the UK.
What Is The EU Settlement Scheme (EUSS)?
The EUSS enables EU, EEA, and Swiss nationals and their family members who moved to the UK to live prior to the end of 2021 to secure the right to reside here. Following the UK’s departure from the EU and the ending of free movement between the two sides, any EU national who does not apply and receive Settled or Pre-Settled Status may be required to leave the UK. As the House of Commons library explains, “The EUSS has been established to grant eligible applicants an immigration status allowing them to remain in the UK following its departure from the EU”. The scheme grants Pre-Settled Status to those who have yet not lived in the UK for five years at the time they apply. This allows those individuals to remain in the UK until they have reached the five-year qualification time for full Settled Status. With Settled Status, EU, EEA, and Swiss nationals can remain in the UK permanently and apply for British citizenship after a further year.
What Is Dahaba Ali’s Background?
Dahaba Ali, who is a writer and producer on BBC Newsnight and Politics Live, applied for Settled Status, having lived in the UK for 17 years, since the age of ten. She was born in the Netherlands after her mother, a Somali national, was granted refugee protection there after fleeing violence and conflict in her home country. According to the Guardian, Ms. Ali is also a prominent campaigner for 3Million, a charity focused on campaigning for the rights of EU nationals in the UK. She grew up in London and was awarded a scholarship to study history at the University of Cambridge. On the basis that Ms. Ali has been living in the UK lawfully for 17 years, she submitted an application to the EUSS in October 2020 (for her mother and herself).
Why Did The Home Office Refuse Ms. Ali’s EUSS Application?
Ms. Ali’s mother was successful in receiving Settled Status from the Home Office. Ms Ali, however, was not. The letter she received at the end of March stated, “Your application has been carefully considered, but unfortunately, from the information available, you do not meet the requirements of the scheme. I am sorry to inform you that your application has therefore been refused”. It went on to state that there was the only evidence to show she had lived in the UK periodically between February 2016 and December 2019, hence she did not have the full five years needed for Settled Status.
According to Dahaba, the Home Office had emailed asking for clarification on her presence in the UK in the previous year (she was in the country during this time), which went into her spam folder (she only found these in her spam folder after being refused). She was understandably devastated by the letter; “My heart sank, and I felt sick when I read the letter…Am I really being punished because I missed a couple of emails,” she said. “I’m terrified I’ll lose my right to work and be removed to Holland. I don’t even speak Dutch anymore.”
The Home Office says that she was refused because she did not provide enough evidence of her residence in the UK. They went on to say, “She is able to reapply to the scheme by 30 June 2021, and we encourage her to get in touch with the helpline where our dedicated staff can support her to provide the requested evidence. We made several repeated attempts to contact her over a number of weeks – by email, phone and text – but the evidence requested was not provided. We accept a range of evidence and will work with people on a case-by-case basis to consider other evidence if necessary”. Ms. Ali says she did not receive any text messages alerting her to the need for further information.
For anyone working in the field of immigration, the case of Ms. Ali is rather concerning. It is perhaps somewhat understandable if an applicant has only been in the UK for a short period and there is insufficient evidence of residence. In her case, it would be expected that there would be plenty of evidence in the form of her HMRC and national insurance records. Relying on email communication is also highly questionable, given the high likelihood of emails being filtered as spam. And why was Ms. Ali not at least given Pre-Settled Status (assuming she wasn’t) on the basis that she had spent at least some of the five years needed in the UK? While this would not necessarily be accepted as a final outcome, it would provide at least some reassurance she can remain in the UK, allowing her time to provide further evidence of her residence since the age of ten.
We do not know if there are other possible reasons for refusal, but based on those provided publically, it is hard to see how the Home Office would have been unable to find evidence of Ms. Ali’s residence in the UK. This case highlights that all EUSS applicants need to provide as much evidence of their residence upfront in their application, even if applying may seem a mere formality. If you find yourself in a similar position, speak to an immigration Solicitor as soon as possible who will be able to resolve your matter in the limited time that remains for EUSS applications.