Home Office glitch means EU citizens lose access to vital “pre-settled status” document
It has only been a few weeks since the deadline for applications to the Settled status scheme for EEA nationals and while the media focus may have shifted, the issues continue to pile up.
Despite conflicting messages often amplified by the media, the deadline was not extended. However, all who have applied in time should in principle have their rights protected and they have all been issued a digital Certificate of Application. This allows those awaiting a Home Office decision on their application to still provide employers, landlords and service providers with the share code needed for their rights to be verified.
But EEA nationals without status are not the only ones who need to use the system to apply. Despite Brexit campaign promises, the Tory Government designed a system that divides EEA nationals into two groups – those who have lived in the UK for 5 years or more, and those who have yet to reach 5 years of residence. The two groups then had to apply to the scheme and would be granted either settled (5 years or more) or pre-settled (less than 5 years) status. Anyone granted the less secure pre-settled status needs to apply again to upgrade to settled status once they have 5 years of residence in the UK. The fact that they log a new application in does not mean they lose their existing pre-settled status in the meantime.
Problems with the new digital certificate
Yet, due to a technical glitch – or rather a design oversight, those people practically lose access to their pre-settled status and are unable to prove it to anyone while they wait.
Currently, anyone who logs an application in the system receives the digital Certificate of Application mentioned. Unfortunately, for the time being this certificate replaces their pre-existing status on the system. In other words, that person is only able to access and prove the fact that they have a pending application. This can and does have serious implications for anyone looking to start a new job or move house while they wait on a decision for their second application. The digital certificate only guarantees the person has rights for 6 months from lodging the application whereas pre-settled status is valid for 5 years.
A Twitter account detailing issues with EUSS reported just such a case yesterday – a young woman who has pre-settled status but has applied for settled status as she wants to get a mortgage. She is waiting on a decision but is also in the process of starting a new job. Suddenly, because she has a new application logged, she no longer has access to the pre-settled status she’s been granted and her prospective employers can only see she’s got a valid application pending and therefore has the right to work for up to 6 months from the application date. Naturally, this does not fill employers with confidence and in many cases job offers will not be extended unless candidates find other means to prove the status they hold. Except the Home Office has not provided any other means as it has insisted from the beginning that no physical proof of status is needed.
Organisations working on the frontline with the scheme report the Home Office is aware of the issue and working on a fix. We can only hope it will come quickly but the disruption to people’s lives is already happening. This only goes to show that instead of an end, the 1 July deadline was only the beginning of the battle for EEA nationals.
July 14, 2021