‘Stop scaremongering!’ Home Office hits back at claims 80k EU nationals face deportation

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Law firm Bates Wells raised the alarm on alleged errors within the EU Settlement Scheme, with the story first published in City AM on Tuesday. The report claimed that up to 80,000 EU nationals living in the UK “could lose their right to live in the UK” in the wake of Brexit settled status changes, adding that “some could lose their jobs or even face deportation”.

The 80,000 is made up of people still awaiting decisions from their applications under the EU Settlement Scheme, which have now allegedly been declared ‘void’.

More than six million such applications were made between the launch of the scheme in March 2019 and the closing date of June 30, 2021.

Nearly three million of these were granted settled status, and a further 2.3 million were granted pre-settled status.

About 110,000 applications were declined, while 79,800 were deemed invalid, and a futher 80,800 were withdrawn or void.

Bates Wells said that this void status was an “error” and that it would leave many of these applicants unable to get a new job or move house, and could expose them to deportation.

In response, the Home Office called the report “scaremongering” and said that the “Government continues to use every possible channel to encourage those who are eligible to apply for the EUSS and secure the status they are entitled.”

“Applications are withdrawn or voided for a variety of reasons – none of which are the Home Office’s fault.

“For example, an application will be voided if it has been made by someone ineligible for the scheme, such as a British citizen,” the spokesperson added.

Jane Biddecombe, an immigration lawyer at Paris Smith law firm, told Express.co.uk: “I agree with the Home Office’s view that the comments in the original article are scaremongering and have nothing to do with ‘errors’ by the Home Office, they are errors in the applications themselves.

“If an application is declared invalid or void it is usually because someone is ineligible for the scheme or they have made an error in their application – which is not the Home Office’s fault.”

She added that the Brexit Withdrawal Agreement states that EU residents in the UK “are still permitted to make a late application within a further reasonable period of time if there are reasonable grounds for them failing to comply with the deadline” – so even if an application was void, reapplication is possible.

Ms Biddecombe added, however, that a “huge backlog” of applications remains to be processed by the Home Office, and “getting a decision could take months”.

While this enormous backlog is dealt with, there is growing concern over the status of these applicants still awaiting a decision and their right to work, despite the Withdrawal Agreement setting out that, pending a decision or any appeal against a refusal, EU nationals retain their legal right of residence in the UK as long as they were lawfully resident in the UK before the end of 2020.

Adam Williams, partner and immigration specialist at DMH Stallard law firm, told Express.co.uk: “We regularly hear from employers fearful of employing an EEA national who cannot now demonstrate status under the EUSS or some other appropriate evidence, of a right to work in the UK.

“Many will be unaware that the rights of EEA nationals should be preserved whilst their application to the EUSS is being considered by the Home Office, or of the recent Home Office statement that this will include those who made an application after the end of June 2021 deadline.”

Mr Williams advises anyone affected to ensure they are “informed about the Home Office’s current position” and, if necessary, “directing the employer to the right to work check guidance for those who have a pending EUSS application.”

Karendeep Kaur manager of Migrate UK, a specialist immigration law firm for businesses and individuals, pointed out that the onus now falls on the worker to ensure their paperwork is in order and their employer knows their status.

He added that, if applicants are struggling to have their status approved, one remaining option would be to apply for sponsorship from an employer as a skilled worker.

“It is worth remembering all may not be lost if an individual has failed to apply to the EUSS in time.

“An organisation can potentially sponsor them as a skilled worker…provided the requisite skill set is met, salary level is awarded and the individual satisfies the English Language requirement.

“The sponsorship option comes at a price but given the skills shortages across many sectors, it may now be the only option forward.”

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