Late applications for EU settled status will be treated sympathetically, Home Office minister says

Watch the video report by ITV Cymru Wales journalist Hamish Auskerry.

EU citizens living in Wales who did not apply for settled and pre-settled status before the end of June deadline can still apply and their cases will be dealt with sympathetically, a Home Office minister has said during a visit to Wales.

The EU Settlement Scheme was launched after the UK left the European Union, and is the means by which EU, EEA and Swiss citizens can secure their rights to live and work here.

The deadline for applications passed on June 30th 2021, but the UK Government is still encouraging anyone who missed the deadline to apply as soon as possible.

However, people who require settled or pre-settled status who did not apply for it before the deadline are legally without rights to claim benefits, take employment or continue living in the UK until or unless they do.

The Home Office, however, does say: “If someone has applied to the EU Settlement Scheme by the 30 June deadline, but has not had a decision yet, their rights are protected until their application is decided. That is the law.”

Charities who help EU citizens secure their status say there are still many people coming forward since the deadline, many of whom only just realising the scheme applied to them or that, for example, they needed to make separate applications for their children.

There is concern for what will happen to an individual if they have not secured status when they find out later in life that they do not have the correct status.

Some charities say it could lead to a second Windrush generation for EU citizens, leading to them experiencing negative consequences in terms of work and benefits.

Kevin Foster MP said there was not a new deadline for late applications

"What we've said is that the EU Settlement Scheme is the key lesson learnt from the Windrush era", the Immigration and Future Borders Minister for the UK Government, Kevin Foster MP, told ITV Cymru Wales on a visit to Newport.

"Anyone who is a child now or before the deadline, we would see it as perfectly reasonable grounds to make a late application when they discover that, even if it is some years in the future".

Organisations like Mind Newport, the mental health charity, have been funded by the Home Office to provide support to EU citizens after the June deadline, but the money for that service is due to run out in September.

Kevin Foster MP visited Mind Newport and told staff, including Tom Finney, the EUSS team leader, that future funding was under review.

"I do have concerns that if the funding stops at the end of September that the most vulnerable, who have not been able to make an application at the moment, will get left without any help or assistance", Tom Finney told ITV Cymru Wales.

Help will continue for EU citizens through the Home Office itself, but there have been reports of long call delays for anyone seeking phone-only help from case workers there.

The UK Government says there are half a million people's EU Settlement Scheme applications currently in a backlog that it hopes to clear in the next few months, meanwhile leaving people in an uncertain position regarding their rights.

Viorica Dragomir has lived in Newport with her eight children for nearly four years

Viorica Dragomir applied for settled status for her and her eight children in 2019. An issue with an expired passport belonging to her oldest son meant his application was initially rejected.

As Italian citizens, the family were told they would have to travel back to Milan in order to get a new identity document for him, but that was not practically or financially possible.

"It was very, very hard. Very stressful for me", Viorica said.

"I really cried because I was very worried about what I was hearing because everybody said something and I was scared".

Viorica said she struggled to find an alternative route to getting the required status for her son until she was helped by Newport Mind case worker Donald Mutale.

But the charity Settled, which helps EU citizens after Brexit, says even people with settled status can struggle to prove it to employers and border staff.

"People are beginning to use the new system", Kate Smart, Settled CEO told ITV Cymru Wales, "a new system that doesn't give people an ID card or passport equivalent, people are having to use this thing called View and Prove where they have to log in and that is already, even at this early stage, causing people quite a lot of problems".

There are various stated circumstances where the UK Government says it will accept late applications on ‘reasonable grounds' for why you did not apply by 30 June 2021, such as medical reasons, or being the victim of domestic abuse.

On the Home Office website, you can check if you can still apply to the EU Settlement Scheme, including further examples of what counts as reasonable grounds for not applying by the deadline.