One of the consequences of Brexit has been that EU Nationals must apply for permission to stay in the UK. EU nationals who started living in the UK before the 31st December 2020 are able to make an application for status under the new system called the ‘EU Settlement Scheme’. The application is free and the system has been streamlined by the government to make the process of applying straightforward compared to other immigration routes within the UK.
EU nationals who want to carry on living in the UK, must make an application before the 30th June 2021. If no application is made before this deadline, then the EU national will no longer have a right to remain in the UK.
The government recently published a report looking at the situation of looked-after children and care leavers who are EU nationals. The government estimates that there are approximately 5,000 children in care who are EU nationals, and 4,000 care leavers based on statistics held by the Office of National Statistics.
In preparing their report, the government contacted all 210 local government bodies responsible for looking after children. Of those contacted, 207 provided a response.
The responses provided showed that local authorities had so far identified 3,300 children in care and care leavers as being eligible for applying for status under the EU Settlement Scheme. This in itself might give rise to concern, given that the government originally estimated approximately 9,000 children in care and care leavers should have been identified.
In other words, only about one third of those who are potentially legally required to apply for status before the 30th June 2021 have been identified in the responses provided to the government.
For the 3,300 children identified, the government obtained details about the applications that had already been made.
The data therefore shows that of the 3,300 children identified by the local authority as being eligible to apply, only 1,520 had submitted applications. That means almost 54% of children in the care of the local authority and care leavers identified had not yet made an application.
Perhaps of more concern, is that the 1,520 submitted applications represents only 17% of the 5,000 children in care and 4,000 care leavers that the government originally estimated would need to apply for status under the EU Settlement Scheme. This contrasts with an estimated 91% of all EU nationals across the UK in the general population having made an application under the EU Settlement Scheme by the 30th September 2020.
What is stopping applications for children in care and care leavers from being made?
Children in care have been able to apply for status from an early stage of the EU Settlement Scheme route, as they were able to apply during the early pilot stages of the scheme being made available. So what obstacles are there to applications progressing and being made for children in care?
In the responses received by the government from local authorities the primary issue identified was a lack of identity documents for the children. This is a requirement for making an application for children under the EU Settlement Scheme. It can be difficult securing identity documents for children in care, particularly in the midst of a global pandemic.
However, the EU Settlement Scheme does allow children to apply where there are circumstances beyond their control for why they have not been able to get an identity document. Applications can also be made where there are compelling compassionate or practical reasons.
Where obtaining necessary identity documents is the obstacle, it is still very important that applications are made before the 30th June 2021, so that the child’s position is protected.
Another issue identified in the government report for applications not being progressed was ‘resistance or lack of co-operation by the applicant and/or their family members.’
It will be important to ensure that proper information is being provided to those who must make applications in order to remain lawfully living in the UK, and that support is provided to families to allow applications to happen.
What happens if the deadline is missed?
After the 30th June 2021, children who have not made an application under the EU Settlement Scheme will no longer be living lawfully in the UK. This means they will no longer have, for example, the right to work or claim public funds. If children are treated as ‘overstayers’ then this is a criminal offence. One of the effects of the ‘compliant environment’ created by the government is a need to prove lawful immigration status for a range of activities, including renting a property, opening a bank account and holding a driving licence. Being without status can have a devastating impact on the ability to lead a normal life. Some of these problems will only start to manifest themselves as the child grows older and the opportunity to obtain status for the child has been lost.
The government have provided scope for applicant’s to apply after the deadline of 30th June 2021 where there are good reasons. It would be hoped that if there were circumstances outside of a child’s control for the application not being made, the government would still grant status with a late application. However, even if status is later granted, this could have significant consequences for a child in future immigration or citizenship applications.
How can OTB Legal help?
OTB Legal are a nationally recognised leading law firm in the provision of personal immigration advice. We are happy to work with local authorities in respect of any support or advice needed in connection with immigration matters, in particular:
- Family and Private life based applications;
- EU Settlement Scheme applications;
- Citizenship applications;
- Judicial Review or other complex challenges.