Sunday, October 17

“The anxiety is palpable”: EU citizens face looming deadline for settled status | Brexit

WWith just three days before the deadline for EU citizens who wish to remain living in the UK to apply for EU Seated Status (EUSS), applicants have described the stress they are experiencing when submitting last minute applications. or wait for news from the Interior Ministry on whether your applications have been accepted.

They describe the frustration of trying to reach a Home Office helpline that is often unable to accept calls due to the excessive number of people seeking advice; many are worried that they are in legal limbo, despite the government’s claim to the contrary.

Around 5 million applicants have already received some sort of status, but, with a backlog of 400,000 last week and between 10,000 and 12,000 new applications being made daily, the Home Office admits that it will take months to process all of them.

Immigration Minister Kevin Foster pledged Tuesday that everyone who has applied before the June 30 deadline but has not had a decision by then will have their rights legally protected and will have a certificate of Issuance of application to show employers, landlords and the NHS.

But many are haunted by legal limbo, fearing they will become illegal due to delays, which stretch to months, in “administrative reviews” of rejected applications.

Elena Remigi from the In Limbo Project, which documents the experiences of EU citizens in the UK, said: “The anxiety among EU citizens is palpable. My inbox is full of messages from people asking for reassurance or guidance. Many tell me that all the helplines are busy and they don’t know what to do. “

Almost all of the struggles highlighted here were answered by the Home Office after The Guardian presented their cases to it.

A spokesman for the Interior Ministry said: “Anyone who has submitted an application to the EU Settlement System before the June 30 deadline, but has not had a decision by then, will have their rights protected until their application is decided. This is established in the law. Dedicated public servants are working extremely hard to help applicants secure their status, including supporting them to provide the necessary evidence. “

Gino Germoni, 70, has lived in London for over 60 years receiving help from INCA ggil, the Italian advice center in London to help him with his application for settled status.
Seventy-year-old Gino Germoni, who has lived in London for over 60 years, was assisted with his application for settled status at the INCA CGIL Italian counseling center in London. Photograph: Martin Godwin / The Guardian

Silvana Germoni, 71, and her mother, 91

Silvana is typical of many Italians who have been in the country since the 1950s and now have to apply to stay legally after 60 years in London. Those with indefinite permission to stay are not required to obtain settled status, but if they do not have documentation to prove that they came to the UK legally, they are advised to do so.

Dmitri Scarlato, soundtrack composer and volunteer for the Italian charity INCA CGIL UK in Highbury, London, said: “Silvana came to us a few weeks ago. But she had a problem. Her passport had expired in 1999. So for her we cannot apply over the phone, we have to make a paper application including bank statements or municipal tax records to prove that she has been here. People your age and older may not have that. They may be in the name of a spouse or their bank accounts have no transactions so it doesn’t look active.

“Then we found out that he had a brother who was in the same position. Her passport has also expired, and then so has her mother who is in a nursing home suffering from dementia. These are typical of the cases we are seeing. “

As of June 24, paper applications can be done online, but the 20-page online form is full of errors and they end up making a duplicate paper application.

Gino Germoni, 70 years old

Gino, who sounds like a Londoner by every inch, is angry at the security questions the Home Office wants answered. “What is your favorite movie?” “What was your first car.” “What do you want to know this for? What do you want me to do? Exit in the middle of the road in front of a car ”? He is very agitated and does not understand why he needs a stable status.

“I am Italian but I have been here for more than 60 years. It is as if I was born here. Now I feel like an illegal alien, all because of the conceited liar Boris Johnson.

“My mother has dementia and is 91 years old. What are they going to do to it? Throw her out of the house and throw her in the middle of the ocean? All these years I have paid my taxes and my insurance. It’s pathetic. If I could, I’d pack my bags and go. “

Annemarie van der Meer has waited almost two years for her settlement status to materialize
Annemarie van der Meer has waited almost two years for it to come true. Photograph: Graeme Robertson / The Guardian

Annemarie van der Meer, 77 years old

After coming to London from the Netherlands in 1976, Annemarie ran a successful North London guesthouse for decades. She first tried to apply for EU-settled status in September 2019, but the phone app could not immediately confirm whether she was eligible despite 45 years of residence in the UK. She was so stressed by the different evidence she had to gather to prove her residency that she felt unable to tackle the process. Finally, as the deadline approached, she hired an attorney this month to help her with her application; received the status this week.

“I was asked to submit a maximum of 10 documents proving that I had lived here for five years continuously, but I found the request overwhelming. I am married to a British citizen, but I was afraid of going the wrong way, so I put it on the back burner until the deadline approached. I’ve been strangely nervous about all of this. I had indefinite permission to remain stamped in an old passport, but that passport has long expired. In the end I went to ask a lawyer for help. I was very afraid to do it myself just in case I made a mistake. It has been very emotional, because I have always felt so comfortable here. The attorney helped me put together my bank statements and apply. The process has been very stressful. “

Paul, age 37

Jessica has been helping her 37 year old French husband, Paul, request EUSS. Paul, who has lived in Britain for 16 years and works in hospitality, applied in February 2020 and is still awaiting a decision 16 months later. The Home Office says the delay is due to his statement that he served a prison sentence in France when he was 18 years old for robbery; officials have given no indication of when the situation is likely to be resolved. (They asked that their real names not be used.)

“It was not violent at all and his record is worn out, but if you have been in prison for more than a year you have to declare it. It was 19 years ago and now he’s embarrassed. He hates what he did, but he’s not who he is now. He has put all of that behind him. I printed a copy of the application certificate so you could show it to your employer, and they agree with that for now, but we don’t know when they will start asking questions. We have two children under the age of four, both British citizens, like me.

“The uncertainty of the situation is really stressful. He’s not someone to show his stress, but he checks his email every morning and every night to see if there is a decision and it is on my mind every day. We need to move house, but we can’t because we don’t think we can get a mortgage without this being resolved. I am completely convinced that he will be deported. I know it sounds ridiculous, but it’s what it takes to stay in the dark for so long.

Rhiannon Inman Simpson and Pete Hillstrom in Norway, where they lived for six years
Rhiannon Inman Simpson and Pete Hillstrom in Norway, where they lived for six years. Photography: Rhiannon Inman Simpson

Rhiannon Inman-Simpson, 32, and Pete Hillstrom, 34, artist and illustrator

Pete is originally from the United States and Rhiannon is from the United Kingdom. Under normal circumstances, you would only be allowed to enter the country under the immigration rules for non-EU citizens. But because Rhiannon has exercised EU treaty rights by living in another EU member state, she qualifies to be in the country as a member of the family of an EU citizen under what are known as the rules of Surinder Singh. The couple have been together for 11 years and lived in Bergen, Norway, for six years.

“Our experience has been a nightmare: confusing, frustrating and incredibly slow. My partner is now trapped in immigration limbo, trapped in a system. He applied for pre-settled status in November 2020. In March 2021, after four months of waiting, he received a refusal from the Ministry of the Interior. He requested an administrative review on March 16, as we believe that this was clearly a wrong decision and that a case officer made a mistake. You are still waiting for a decision 100 days later.

“We have done everything possible to try to get answers from the Home Office: we file formal complaints, we ask our deputy to repeatedly push for a decision, we write to the administrative review team, we call the resolution center several times a week. Both we and our MP receive the same scheduled response each time: that it is not possible to get any kind of update in our application due to delays. It has taken an average of two hours to get to the resolution center over the past few weeks.

“Until recently, the Interior Ministry was obliged to give applicants a time frame if the administrative review lasted more than 28 days. They say they can no longer provide this, leaving applicants completely in the dark. These delays will cause untold distress and uncertainty for people waiting beyond the June 30 deadline. “

Karolina Bylicka, 30, Polish

As one of 120 volunteers for a charity, Settled, Karolina spends six hours a day after her daily work helping other Polish citizens struggling with the concept of settled status. Among those most in need are parents who “have no idea” that separate applications should be made for their children.

“I had a lady with four children whose passports had expired and because the mother does not live with their father, they cannot easily obtain new passports because, according to Polish law, both parents must present themselves during the application, or have the permission of a family court or lawyer. That is quite expensive. Because their passports are expired, we have to make paper applications for each child, with a birth certificate for each and a letter from the school for each to say that they have been in the country in the last six months of 2020. This woman said that the people around her had been telling her, ‘oh, your kids will be fine’. We are still finding people wondering: do I have to apply for my children with only a few days to go? ”.

This article was amended on June 28, 2021. An earlier version incorrectly referred to “independent permission to stay” instead of indefinite permission to stay.

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