Introduction: A Turnaround in Policy
The Home Office has recently made a substantial U-turn concerning the rights of EU citizens residing in the UK before Brexit. This reversal, prompted by a rule established in August, now allows those who mistakenly applied for permanent residency cards after the referendum to make late applications for EU settled status. Despite this positive development, campaigners stress the importance of clear guidance to avoid EU citizens facing unnecessary challenges in asserting their rights. Let’s discuss in detail how the Home Office’s latest decision impacting EU citizens who were in the UK pre-Brexit.
A number of stories involving EU nationals facing severe effects have inspired this change. As a result of the Brexit departure deal, British nationals currently residing in the European Union and EU citizens who were residents there before Brexit will have the permanent right to remain in their home country.
To keep track of the over 6 million EU nationals living in the nation, the government established the digital-only EU settlement scheme—one that does not require a card. Application deadline was June 20, 2021, but late applications were accepted if there were “reasonable grounds.”
August Crackdown’s Unintended Impact
The controversy stems from a Home Office crackdown in August, which removed “lack of awareness” of the settlement scheme as a reasonable ground for late applications. This led to severe consequences for EU citizens, including instances where individuals faced frozen bank accounts and potential removal from the country.
Brexit: Lifelong Rights for EU Citizens
Under the Brexit withdrawal agreement, EU citizens in the UK and Britons in the EU before Brexit possess lifelong rights in their respective countries. The government introduced the digital-only EU settlement scheme, documenting nearly 6 million EU citizens. Late applications, considered on “reasonable grounds,” remained an option after the scheme closed in June 2021.
Individual Stories: The Human Impact of August Rules
The August rules led to distressing experiences for EU citizens, including an Italian restaurateur who, after 21 years of tax contributions in the UK, found his bank account frozen overnight. Further, such stories prompted campaigners to advocate for a change in policy.
Campaigners’ Concerns: The Need for Explicit Guidance
Campaigners argue that the Home Office’s decision should be accompanied by more explicit wording in guidance to case workers. Without such clarity, there remains a risk that EU citizens will face challenges in having their rights recognized. Moreover, this may force them to “beg” for acknowledgment.
Exposing Consequences, Demanding Change
A key role was played in highlighting dire consequences faced by EU citizens due to the August rule change. Subsequent pressure from campaigners and EU citizens prompted the relevant authorities to publish updated guidance for case workers. This guidance acknowledges late applications from those with permanent residency cards as “reasonable grounds.”
Lawyers’ Perspectives: Government’s Major U-Turn
Despite the Home Office insisting that the guidance has been “updated” rather than “reversed,” lawyers at Bindmans argue that the new guidance marks a significant U-turn in the government’s position on late applications to the EU settlement scheme.
Mixed Reactions: A Partial Victory and Lingering Concerns
While some EU citizens express relief at the change in guidelines, the3million campaign group describes it as a “partial victory.” They emphasize that the updated guidance falls short of explicitly stating that late applications from EU citizens with permanent residency cards are allowable. This has led to concerns about the need for individuals to “beg” for recognition.
Home Office: Accepting Late Applications
A Home Office spokesperson, while acknowledging the main deadline’s passage, affirms the ongoing acceptance and consideration of late applications from those with reasonable grounds for delays in applying to the EU settlement scheme.
Related Concerns: Home Office Response to High Court Ruling
Separately, concerns have been raised regarding the Home Office’s response to a high court ruling on the EU settlement scheme. Moreover, the decision to give a two-year extension to those with pre-settled status has sparked worries.Concerns arise that employers, landlords, or banks could interpret it as a temporary and legally risky status.
Looking Ahead: Challenges and Hope for Change in 2024
As the new year unfolds, the challenges of the past continue to shape the present. With elections in various countries, including the UK and the US, there is a collective hope for positive change. This period of transition invites reflection on global issues and fosters the potential for renewed international cooperation. It is a time for communities to come together and actively contribute to building a more optimistic and collaborative future.
The Home Office’s latest decision impacting EU citizens signifies a significant policy shift. It responds to public concerns triggered by an August rule. Stories of severe consequences have underscored the real-life impact of immigration decisions on individuals.
While the Home Office’s updated guidance is a positive step, concerns persist. Campaigners call for explicit wording to prevent unnecessary challenges for EU citizens in asserting their rights. Acknowledging late applications from those with permanent residency cards as “reasonable grounds” is a positive move but lacks absolute clarity.
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