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Problems with digital residence permits for EU Nationals in the UK

Many EU Nationals in the UK have reported experiencing problems with their digital online residence permits as they opt to apply for settled status or to appeal decisions.

The digital permits do not show a full online history of previous statuses, applications or appeals, they only show the most recently confirmed status regardless of anything which may be in progress. One reported example is of an EU National who had been granted pre-settled status in 2019 and when he applied for settled status in April 2021, his existing pre-settled status was removed from his permit. With long delays to the approval process and a permit which simply states that an application is waiting for approval, he has no way of proving his current right to work in the interim and no physical document to use as an alternative.

The3million, a not-for-profit organisation offering protection and support for EU Nationals in the UK has confirmed that the government’s online ‘view and prove’ system “does not properly handle an individual’s progression through the EU settlement scheme.”

Speaking to the Guardian newspaper, the Home Office have confirmed that this is not a technical glitch but simply the way that the system works. The Home Office suggested that individuals could call the settlement resolution centre to request that their account shows their previous status, however callers have faced hours on hold trying to resolve the problem.

On the 15th September, the Scottish, Welsh and Northern Irish governments sent a letter to Kevin Foster MP (Minister for Future Borders and Immigration) requesting the Home Office to provide EU Nationals with a physical document to prove their immigration status in addition to their digital permit, citing that “there are a number of difficulties some EU citizens face in not having physical proof of status.” Reasons for this request include reassurance for vulnerable EU citizens, the prevention of possible discrimination and assistance for employers. The UK Government already offer a physical back-up to the digital vaccine passports with QR technology, so a similar product is suggested for residence permits also:

“To be clear, we are not calling for the abandonment of digital proof. We recognise that digital proof has many positive attributes…We are simply calling for an additional safeguard - not for all EU citizens but only for those who request physical proof. This safeguard will provide reassurance to vulnerable EU citizens, prevent discrimination and assist employers and other service providers.”

Letter to Kevin Foster MP

The most recent quarterly government report from the Home Office showed that as of 30 June 2021, 6,050,860 applications for EU Settlement Status had been received, but only 5,444,550 had been concluded, raising concerns around how the remaining EU citizens whose applications are under review, will provide proof of their current settlement status using only their digital permit, in the interim.

Some EU Nationals who have already been granted indefinite leave to stay in the UK are now being asked to prove their status using a digital residence permit number and have faced being turned down for work if they do not have one. A recent news report from September told the story of Constantino Salacuri who was granted indefinite leave to stay in the UK in 1980, however since Brexit he is now being turned down for work because he does not hold a digital permit. Salacuri was originally informed that due to his indefinite leave to stay, applying for EUSS and therefore acquiring a digital permit, was optional. He has written to the Home Office regarding this but was informed that he may not receive a response for up to 20 working days due to the high demand of enquiries – the Home Office have not offered to comment on the matter.

It is worth noting that for any employers who may be having difficulties in verifying the right to work for an EU National due to the reasons outlined above, there is an option to contact the Home Office via the Employer Checking Service who should be able to provide a verification notice in the interim.

You can read the full letter from the devolved governments to Kevin Foster MP here and the quarterly government report from the Home Office regarding EU Settlement Statistics here.

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