Worries of 'timebomb' temporary residency as UK government releases EU settlement scheme data

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By Pauline Bock
Anti-Brexit demonstrator protests outside the Houses of Parliament in London, Britain
Anti-Brexit demonstrator protests outside the Houses of Parliament in London, Britain   -   Copyright  REUTERS/Hannah McKay

Campaigners have expressed concern about the numbers EU27 nationals being given temporary — rather than permanent — permission to live in the UK post-Brexit.

This year, 37% of applicants were given the temporary status but that rose to 43% in August, according to newly-published Home Office figures.

EU27 nationals that have been in the UK for fewer than five years can apply for "pre-settled status" until they pass the threshold for "settled status".

Both allow them to work in the UK and use its health service, but campaigners say "pre-settled status" requires applicants to reapply, meaning they could get rejected second time around.

It is unclear whether the rise in the numbers of people given the temporary status is down to more EU27 nationals with fewer than five years' residency applying or a case of the UK government changing its policy.

Some long-term UK residents have spoken out after applying and being given the lesser "pre-settled status".

“They think there is no problem, but we think there is a big problem,” Kuba Jabłonowski, a research associate for the3million campaign group, told Euronews.

“If people get granted pre-settled status, they will need to apply again, and can still be rejected when they apply the second time.

"The 'pre-settled' EU nationals can also lose their residency status if they leave the UK for two years. It’s a timebomb.

“Anyone who tells EU citizens ‘their rights are safe’ with pre-settled status is simply not telling the truth.

“The one thing that we do know for certain is the very troubling rise in pre-settled grants, which are now out of line with the Home Office’s own estimate from 2018."

The British Home Office has received more than 1.3 million applications to “settled status” since the start of the scheme, of which 199,300 were submitted in August. That’s only slightly more than half the 2.37 million EU nationals working in the UK, according to August 2019 estimates from the Labour Force Survey, with about 1 million EU citizens who have yet to apply.

Out of these 1.3 million applications, the Home Office said, “more than 1.1 million (1,151,000)” have been concluded, of which “62% were granted settled status and 37% were granted pre-settled status”.

"The number of applications concluded in August 2019 was 199,300", the Home Office said. "Of these, 57% were granted settled status and 43% were granted pre-settled status."

The Home Office has said that “the proportion of those getting settled and pre-settled status under the EU Settlement Scheme is broadly in line with expectation”.

The latest data also shows that 200,000 applications are left in a “backlog of unconcluded applications”, Jabłonowski added.

The backlog of open cases, he says, has grown by 100,000 since the end of July.

“The Home Office’s website says applications are usually processed within 1 to 4 days”, he said, “so why are there almost 200,000 people for whom that’s not the case?” The Home Office, he adds, has not provided information on why these cases are taking longer to process.