Cornwall's EU nationals fear problems at borders with digital proof of residency

  • Watch Charlotte Gay's report

EU Citizens who have applied for residency say they have little confidence the system will work when they are asked to provide proof of their status at border controls.

The new EU Settled Status scheme uses a digital platform to verify a person's legal right to live and work in the UK - but many are concerned about the practicalities for EU nationals.

Michèle Laouenan has lived in the same house on the edge of Bodmin Moor for 40 years. She says she wished she did not have to apply for settled status in the first place but when she when she got her email confirmation it did not appear give her the proof to stay in the UK she was looking for.

The Home Office confirmation email congratulates her for her successful application to the EU Settlement scheme, but says: "Important information, this letter is not proof of your status in the UK and cannot be used to prove your status to employers landlords, and other organisations."

"You can view your immigration status online via the view and prove your immigration status online service."

She told ITV News West Country: "How settling is this? How am I going to go through customs with this?"

Michele says she is fearful for what will happen when she needs to leave the cou Credit: ITV West Country

Michèle says she is nervous because she has already heard examples of people being stopped by border police and denied entry.

She says without a physical card, or electronic proof linked to her passport, she fears she will not be able to visit her daughter in Amsterdam or go on holidays without facing problems.

"I have gone through the process I have been asked to do and yet there is no evidence, no electronic evidence. If I go through the customs will my piece of paper be accepted?"

Another mother with concerns is Aurora, who lived in the UK for more than 20 years and has three teenage children living in Cornwall.

But after a breakdown in her support network and financial struggles led to her feeling isolated, she left on a ferry from Plymouth to return back to family in the South of France.

Aurora says the mental stress which came following the Brexit referendum led to her needing to leave the UK.

"I couldn't find a decent job and that's when I became homeless. The local government found me temporary accommodation and that's when I got down into a serious depression. I couldn't bare the pressure on my life anymore, and bless my children because they are so understanding and strong, I told them I had to go because I didn't belong any more."

Aurora successfully applied for settlement in the UK before she left, but she is worried how practical it will be for officials on the border to check her and her children's status when they want to visit each other.

"Having to go through the Internet and the website, is it going to work? Are you going to have signal? Is everything going to respond properly and make it as painless as possible?"

Aurora spoke to ITV from her home in France Credit: ITV West Country

Settled Campaigner Emmanuelle Brook, from Newquay, has helped both these women with their applications.

She says this is not the simple process EU citizens were promised after the referendum and pandemic has only made it more difficult.

"Covid has not helped at all, [in that time] lots of people's papers may have expired. Elderly people who have been isolating in their own bubbles have not found out about this. Despite this the government has not agreed to extend the June deadline."

In response to ITV West Country's report, the Home Office says if a person has reasonable grounds to miss the deadline they will have further opportunity to apply.

They also say a digital status will be more practical than a physical document and compare to Australia's system which has been in operation for the past two years.

Full statement from Minister for Future Borders and Immigration Kevin Foster

“The EU Settlement Scheme has been open now for more than two years and I am delighted the landmark scheme has already surpassed 5.4 million applications – I would urge all those eligible to apply as soon as possible so they can secure the status they deserve in UK law.  

“Where a person has reasonable grounds for missing the 30th June deadline, they will be given a further opportunity to apply. The Home Office has also made up to £22 million available in funding for a network of 72 UK organisations to help vulnerable people apply the scheme, and has invested nearly £8 million in marketing campaigns to encourage people to apply to the EUSS.

“Physical documents may get lost or expire a digital status will not, and can be accessed any time, with comparable nations such as Australia having moved successfully to wholly digital status some years ago.”