Legal crevasse awaits the most vulnerable EU citizens in UK

Vulnerable EU citizens will be stripped of essential rights at the stroke of midnight on 30 June if urgent action is not taken, the Law Society of England and Wales warned as the deadline looms for EU citizens to apply for settled status.

Law Society president I. Stephanie Boyce said: “EU citizens under the care of local authorities and in residential homes are among those most likely to find themselves without access to essential support when the deadline for applying for EU settled status (EUSS) passes in just over one week’s time.

“Anyone who does not apply by the deadline will become unlawfully resident in the UK overnight. They will be at risk of losing their jobs, bank accounts, tenancies, access to the NHS and welfare benefits.

“Some may be able to apply late with a ‘reasonable excuse’, but in the interim a new home or job may be at risk as ‘right to rent’ checks by landlords or ‘right to work’ checks by prospective employers would flag applicants as ineligible. People may also find themselves barred from essential health, social or welfare support.”

As of 23 April 2021, applications for EUSS had not been received for 33% of the 3,660 looked after children and care leavers identified as eligible to apply for EU settled status*.

Solicitors continue to tell the Law Society that many of their clients who are eligible have no idea of their need to register under the scheme, indicative of a far wider group across society who don’t yet appreciate the imminent seismic shift in their status.

Some mistakenly believe they do not need to apply – those who have permanent residence but not UK citizenship, parents who mistakenly believe their children are automatically UK citizens by virtue of having been born in the UK.

Others are vulnerable and likely to need state support they will no longer be eligible for – the elderly, children and young people in care, homeless people and others who don’t speak English well, as well as people with mental or physical disabilities who may be unaware of, or simply lack the capacity to apply for, the scheme.

I. Stephanie Boyce said: “Solicitors working for local authorities are concerned about the responsibilities local authorities owe to these and other EU and EEA citizens who have not applied for the scheme in time for the deadline. This would leave them unable to access state support.

“Local authorities require increased guidance and resources for making human rights assessments to be able to support an unprecedented number of vulnerable people from becoming destitute.

“Clear contingency plans are urgently needed to prevent mass disenfranchisement overnight on 30 June.

“The UK government is acting to alert EU citizens of the deadline and has granted funding to organisations that support such people in accessing the scheme, but there will inevitably be those who fall through the cracks and the implications for each one of them could be shattering, as the Windrush generation testify."

Notes to editors

*Government survey of local government bodies with responsibility for children’s services

The EU Settlement Scheme allows EU and EEA citizens resident in the UK prior to 31 December 2020 to register for settled or pre-settled status to remain lawfully in the UK, prior to the deadline of 30 June 2021.

There is still time to make an application to the EUSS before the deadline.

The application is free and can be submitted online where the applicant has a biometric passport or biometric national ID card.

There is discretion to apply without ID documents in certain circumstances, which is often thought of as a barrier to applicants. In these circumstances, applicants can request a paper form from the Home Office or access the form online.

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