Under the new post-Brexit UK immigration rules EU citizens who had been living in the UK before 31 December 2020 will have until 30 June 2021 to apply for an immigration status to remain legally resident in the UK.
Where an EU national fails to apply for status before the deadline, they risk becoming an overstayer. Overstayers do not have the right to work or study in the UK, and they may no longer be able to access public services such as the NHS. Becoming an overstayer may ultimately lead to their removal from the UK and will have an adverse impact on any future immigration application.
There are concerns that this looming deadline will most adversely affect vulnerable groups such as rough sleepers who face various barriers preventing them from applying to remain in the country. Rough sleepers may lack the necessary documentation to apply, may have a distrust of the Home Office, or may simply be unaware of the changes and how this will affect their right to stay in the UK. To make matters worse, Government services that were set up to help EU nationals apply for status in the UK now face a loss of funding as we exit the transition period.
When applying under the EU Settlement Scheme, applicants must (in most cases) provide a valid ID document and evidence of residence in the UK. Often, the Home Office are able to assess an applicant’s residence in the UK by cross-referencing their tax and employment records with HMRC. Where the applicant does not have a regular employment history, or if they had only engaged in informal or casual employment, it may be more difficult to evidence their residence. In such cases, the applicant would be required to produce alternative evidence, which again, rough sleepers may find difficult to provide.
While the Home Office do not charge an application fee under the EU Settlement Scheme, rough sleepers may lack the financial means to access support services to help with their applications. According to Barbara Drozdowicz of the East European Resource Centre (EERC), some of her clients cannot afford the bus fare to get to advisory appointments.
Rough sleepers’ distrust in the Home Office has also deterred many from applying. Between 2010 and 2016 the UK declared rough sleeping as an “abuse” or “misuse” of EU freedom of movement rights, and deported an estimated 2,000 EEA nationals on that basis. Whilst this was later ruled unlawful, it has caused rough sleepers to fear risk of repercussions from the Home Office.
The Coronavirus pandemic has clearly compounded the issue, with unemployment and wage cuts resulting in an increased risk of homelessness. These challenges, combined with homeless services being overstretched and facing the discontinuation of state funding, have left vulnerable people who rely on government services without the help they need. It is an issue which needs to be addressed sooner rather than later.
The information in this blog is for general information purposes only and does not purport to be comprehensive or to provide legal advice. Whilst every effort is made to ensure the information and law is current as of the date of publication it should be stressed that, due to the passage of time, this does not necessarily reflect the present legal position. Gherson accepts no responsibility for loss which may arise from accessing or reliance on information contained in this blog. For formal advice on the current law please don’t hesitate to contact Gherson. Legal advice is only provided pursuant to a written agreement, identified as such, and signed by the client and by or on behalf of Gherson.