'Lives on Hold'

By Emma McClelland - 25 August 2021

30th June 2021. Since the EU Settlement Scheme (EUSS) began, it has been an inauspicious date for third-sector advisers working with EEA nationals. In the run-up, we expressed concern that thousands of eligible people wouldn’t meet the deadline, losing their rights overnight, or that last minute applicants would get caught in an under-resourced and underprepared processing system. 

In less than two months since the EUSS deadline, we have heard from 165 people who have contacted us to report delays, difficulties in proving their status, and even to make late applications. 

In light of this, and concurrently with other like-minded organisations, we have published a briefing that explores people’s ongoing concerns, introduces real-world case studies, and proposes measures through which the government, and civil society organisations involved in immigration checks, can mitigate the limitations of the scheme.

Our research revealed: 

  • Employers backchecking rights: Despite the Home Office specifying that new checks were only necessary for applicants recruited from 01 July 2021, employers have been carrying out retrospective checks on current employees, often singling out EU nationals. 
  • An EUSS backlog: Those with pending status are being put at a disadvantage. Although they should all receive a Certificate of Application (COA), which can be used to show employers that their application is pending, people who submitted their EUSS applications on paper can end up waiting months for this. In just eight weeks since the transition to new immigration checks, 7 people contacted us to report a loss of work security. 
  • Life-changing consequences: There are serious repercussions to the inability to prove one’s status. One of our beneficiaries lost her job at a care home, as she was unable to provide a COA and her employer ran out of patience. Another, a construction worker, had a week’s wages withheld by an employment agency. 
  • Refused applications: As many as 11 people contacted us to seek help when their application was refused. Worryingly, two of them were children, whose applications were rejected even when their parents were awarded it.
  • Paid adviser problems: The EUSS Resolution Centre (EURC) is not very visible to those seeking help with an application, and it also appears to be operating at capacity, leading some people to turn to paid advisers. 

The end of free movement constituted a momentous transformation that affected EEA nationals, employers, the government, and civil society alike. We each have a part to play in how we navigate the process, and an ability to mitigate some of the limitations described in this briefing. 

You can read the full briefing, which includes real-life case studies and our remedial recommendations, here. To stay up to date with our future research work, sign up to our newsletter.

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