Threat of no-deal Brexit on 31 October prompts rush of applications for settled status
Two million people have asked to stay in the UK after Brexit under the governments EU settlement scheme, latest figures show.
The number of applications received by 30 September is equivalent to one in six EU citizens in Britain and included nationals and relatives from the EU, the European Economic Area (EEA) and Switzerland, Home Office data published on Wednesday said.
More than half a million applications (520,600) were received in September alone.
It is believed the continuing threat of a no-deal Brexit on 31 October has prompted the rush of applications, even though EU citizens and their families have until 31 December 2020 to apply even if the UK crashes out.
The figures are classed as experimental because the scheme is still in the testing phase and not fully developed so should be treated with caution, the Home Office paper warned.
The scheme asks applicants to prove their identity, demonstrate they live in the UK, and declare any criminal convictions.
The home secretary, Priti Patel, said: EU citizens have made a huge contribution to this country and will play a key role in cementing Britains status as an outward-looking, global leader after Brexit.
That is why I am thrilled that we have had 2 million applications to the EU settlement scheme so that EU citizens can secure their immigration status under UK law.
Nicolas Hatton, the co-founder of the campaign group the3million, said concerns remained despite the high take-up rate. He said: The UK government has instilled fear among EU citizens with no deal, hence the spike in applications in September.
Having said that, the3million is worried about the 100,000 EU citizens who wont be able to apply by December 2020 and the UK government has yet to declare how these people who are living lawfully in the UK will be able to continue to live their lives.
I am talking about elderly residents in care homes, people with disability and simply people who wont know they have to apply.
The highest number of applications are from Polish, Romanian and Italian citizens, with more than 345,000 Polish citizens applying, the Home Office said. With an estimated 1 million Polish people in the UK, this raises questions about the large number of Poles who have not yet applied.
Luke Piper, solicitor at South West Law and legal adviser to 3million group said he was concerned by the rising backlog of unprocessed cases, which currently stands at 335,700.
We dont know who is in that backlog, and it could simply be that there has been a huge surge in applications, so there is a delay in processing them, he said, but he added that his firm was seeing growing delays in processing complicated cases. The more complex cases, involving ID issues and the more vulnerable people were seeing delays for those people.
He also highlighted the continued high proportion of people being allocated the more precarious pre-settled status, which requires applicants to reapply to convert this to the permanent settled status once they have accrued five years of continuous residence in the UK.
The latest statistics show that 43% of applicants have been allocated pre-settled status and 57% given settled status. Campaigners have expressed concern that some people may be wrongly accepting the lesser status while applying even though they have lived in the UK for over five years. This trend is surprising and worrying. Given that most EU citizens have been here a long time, you would expect the proportion of people getting settled status to be higher, Piper said.
Christine Jardine, Liberal Democrat home affairs spokeswoman, said: Boris Johnson has broken the promise he made to the 3.6 million EU citizens in the UK. He said their rights would be automatically guaranteed in law, but todays figures show that the process is anything but automatic.
Hundreds of thousands are being given second-class pre-settled status, which means they will face a new cliff-edge in five years. Thats another disaster waiting to happen.
Sadiq Khan, the mayor of London, said: Its hugely concerning that around two million of the UKs EU citizens and their families still need to apply to the EU settlement scheme. This is by far the biggest change in rights and immigration status in our country for a generation, yet clearly the government is not doing enough in the face of ongoing uncertainty.
The Home Office said its staff are currently processing up to 20,000 cases a day, and completed applications are being processed in five working days on average. The majority of unresolved cases were down to applicants no having submitted all the required documents, a spokesperson said.