Over Christmas, the Home Office announced that EU citizens will be required to apply to the EU Settlement Scheme to continue living in the UK after 2020.
Since the referendum, my Labour colleagues and I have consistently called on the Government to unilaterally guarantee the rights of EU nationals living in the UK. I have received many emails from EU nationals in Lewisham Deptford since the result of referendum expressing understandable stress and anxiety over the uncertainty they have faced about their right to remain in the UK after our exit from the EU. These are our friends, family members, neighbours and colleagues. As an indispensable part of our communities, the rights of EU nationals should have been guaranteed by the Government long ago.
Instead of guaranteeing the legal status of EU nationals straight away, the Government has used citizens’ rights as bargaining chips, causing unacceptable uncertainty for EU nationals. On top of that, EU nationals are now expected to foot the bill for the application – despite paying taxes, contributing to our economy and living in the UK for many years.
I find it unacceptable that with just a few months to go until our supposed exit from the EU, millions of EU citizens have only just received notice of the details of this settlement scheme. As Afzal Khan MP, Labour’s Shadow Immigration Minister, warned MPs in the wake of the Windrush scandal late last year: “The EU Settlement Scheme will be the biggest task the Home Office has ever undertaken. With an additional 3 million EU citizens subject to the hostile environment, it will be a question of when, and not if, another scandal will break”.
What is the EU Settlement Scheme?
The Government has now outlined its scheme for settled and pre-settled status for EU nationals and their families. EU nationals who have been living in the UK continuously for five years will be able to apply for settled status to stay indefinitely. EU nationals who have not been in the UK for five years will be able to apply for pre-settled status, which will allow them to stay in the UK until they can apply for settled status. Family members will also be allowed to apply to join eligible relatives under the scheme. It is proposed that an application will cost £65 and £32.50 for a child under 16. For those who already have valid permanent residence or indefinite leave to remain documentation, they will be able to exchange it for settled status for free.
The Home Office has said that the application process for the scheme is currently being tested and that it will be fully open by 30 March 2019.
In the event of a no-deal Brexit, the Government has confirmed that EU nationals in the UK before 29 March 2019 will be able to apply for settled status as planned. More information about the scheme is here.
If you are an EU national living in Lewisham Deptford and have questions about what this announcement means for you, or have questions about your application, please get in touch with me and my caseworkers. Information about contacting me is here.