Home Office Revises Stance on Rights of EU Citizens Residing in UK Pre-Brexit

In a noteworthy reversal, the Home Office has adjusted its stance on the rights of EU citizens who were in the UK prior to Brexit. The change pertains to a rule implemented in August that prohibited individuals mistakenly applying for permanent residency cards after the referendum from making late applications for EU settled status, provided they were unaware of the specialized immigration scheme.

Campaigners emphasize the need for more explicit language in guidance to case workers. They argue that without clearer instructions, EU citizens may still find themselves in the position of having to “beg” for their rights to be acknowledged.

The decision to modify the rule follows a series of distressing stories involving EU citizens facing severe consequences, as highlighted by various media outlets, including The Guardian.

Under the Brexit withdrawal agreement, EU citizens residing in the UK and Britons living in the EU before Brexit are entitled to lifelong residency rights in their respective countries. The government introduced the digital-only EU settlement scheme, which closed in June 2021, to document the nearly 6 million EU citizens in the UK. Late applications were initially considered on “reasonable grounds.”

Complications arose last August when the Home Office toughened its stance, eliminating “lack of awareness” of the settlement scheme as a valid reason for a late application.

This decision had far-reaching consequences, such as the case of an Italian restaurateur, who, despite paying taxes in the UK for 21 years, saw his bank account frozen overnight by Santander. 

Under the Home Office’s revised guidelines, late applications from individuals holding permanent residency cards are now deemed “reasonable grounds” for delays in applying to the settlement scheme. While insiders in the Home Office insist that the guidance has not been “reversed” but rather “updated” for clarity, campaigners remain vigilant to ensure the rights of EU citizens are adequately protected.

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