UK Immigration Update: The UK Home Office Amends Policy on The Rights of EU citizens in UK

In a recent and significant development, the UK Home Office has made a notable reversal in its stance regarding the rights of EU citizens residing in the UK post-Brexit. This decision, which reflects the complexities and ongoing adjustments in the post-Brexit era, marks a crucial moment for many EU nationals who have made the UK their home.

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The Original Rule and Its Impact

In August, the Home Office implemented a rule that had severe implications for EU citizens who, unknowingly, had not applied for their permanent residency cards under the EU Settlement Scheme after the Brexit referendum. The scheme, which was closed in June 2021, was set up to document the nearly 6 million EU citizens in the UK, ensuring their rights in the post-Brexit landscape. However, the rule change in August disqualified “lack of awareness” of the settlement scheme as a reasonable ground for late applications.

This decision had immediate and, in some cases, devastating consequences. Stories emerged of long-term residents who suddenly found their bank accounts frozen, leading to the closure of their businesses. Similar stories surfaced, painting a picture of confusion and distress among a significant section of the EU community in the UK.

The U-Turn and Its Implications

Responding to mounting pressure from campaigners, EU citizens, and media reports, the Home Office has revised its guidance. The new directive to case workers now recognises late applications from those with permanent residency cards as “reasonable grounds” for delays in applying to the scheme. This move is a relief to many who found themselves in legal limbo due to the previous ruling.

Ongoing Concerns

Despite this positive development, concerns remain. Campaign groups like the3million have pointed out that the updated guidance could be more explicit. The fear is that EU citizens may still have to go through unnecessary hoops to prove their right to stay, perpetuating a sense of insecurity and the need to “beg” for their rights. This underscores the challenges of navigating the post-Brexit reality for both the UK government and EU citizens. The Brexit withdrawal agreement assured EU citizens living in the UK (and Britons in the EU) of their right to remain in the country they were living in. However, implementing these rights for the long term is a complex and evolving process.

Moving Forward

Looking ahead, it’s vital for the Home Office to ensure clear, accessible, and fair policies for EU citizens. This recent U-turn is a step in the right direction, acknowledging the need for flexibility and understanding in unique cases. However, it’s just the beginning of a journey towards a more stable and reassuring environment for the EU community in the UK.

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What Happens if an EUSS Application is Rejected?

The Home Office’s policy reversal, while positive, does not fully resolve the issues faced by those whose EU Settlement Scheme applications have been refused. These refusals, often due to reasons like insufficient proof of residence or gaps in residency, have profound and far-reaching immigration consequences for those impacted.

In these situations, the importance of a fair and accessible administrative review or appeal process cannot be overstated. Applicants can seek an administrative review to correct decision-making errors or provide new information. If unresolved, an EUSS appeal to an independent tribunal offers a deeper examination and the chance to argue their case in a legal setting.

When an application is refused, applicants will have the right to request an administrative review if they believe a mistake has been made in the decision or an immigration appeal. The refusal letter itself will outline the options available, after which an applicant must decide on the best course of action or seek legal advice from a team of immigration experts like our very own at Gulbenkian Andonian Solicitors. 

Summing Up

The Home Office’s latest move is a reminder of the importance of responsive and empathetic governance, especially in times of significant change like Brexit. As the UK continues to define its post-Brexit identity, the treatment of EU citizens will be a critical measure of its commitment to fairness and international cooperation.

As we watch how this situation unfolds, it’s crucial to remember the human stories behind these policies and the need for a system that respects and protects the rights of all residents.

FAQs about EU Citizens’ Rights in the UK

The Home Office initially implemented a rule disqualifying “lack of awareness” of the EU Settlement Scheme as a reasonable ground for late applications. This decision had severe implications for EU citizens who had not applied for their permanent residency cards post-Brexit, leading to cases of frozen bank accounts and closed businesses, causing distress among EU residents in the UK.

In response to pressure, the Home Office revised its guidance, now recognising late applications from those with permanent residency cards as “reasonable grounds” for delays in applying to the EU Settlement Scheme. This change is seen as a relief for many who found themselves in a legal limbo due to the initial ruling.

Yes, despite the positive development, concerns remain. Campaign groups like the3million suggest that the updated guidance could be clearer. There’s a worry that EU citizens might still face hurdles in proving their right to stay, leading to ongoing uncertainty and insecurity.

If an application is refused, the applicant can request an administrative review if they believe there has been a mistake in the decision-making process. Alternatively, they may pursue an appeal to an independent tribunal for a more in-depth examination of their case. The refusal letter should outline these options, and seeking legal advice is recommended.

This policy change is crucial as it reflects the UK’s approach to upholding the rights of EU citizens post-Brexit. It’s a significant measure of the UK’s commitment to fairness and international cooperation and is vital in ensuring that the post-Brexit transition is as smooth and humane as possible for all residents affected.

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