British Ministers have rejected demands to allow more time for EU citizens to register to stay in the UK after Brexit by declaring: “Don’t delay, apply today.”
The deadline for applying for post-Brexit residency under the government’s EU Settlement Scheme passes at midnight, with claims of a backlog of more than 300,000 cases.
And some EU citizens who have lived in the UK for many years have described how the process of applying for the scheme has been so stressful they have felt suicidal.
EU nationals and their families have had to apply by the end of this month to confirm their immigration status in order to continue living and working in the UK now the Brexit transition period and freedom of movement have ended.
Labour has demanded a three-month extension because of delays and problems during the COVID-19 pandemic, but ministers have so far insisted this will not happen.
Under the terms of Britain’s departure from the European Union, EU citizens and their families living and working in the UK no longer have an automatic right to do so as freedom of movement has come to an end.
Instead, they have to apply for legal permission to remain under what is known as the EU Settlement Scheme (EUSS).
People from the European Economic Area (EEA) countries of Iceland, Liechtenstein and Norway, as well as Switzerland are also affected.
Once granted status, applicants can continue to use the NHS, study and access public funds and benefits, as well as travel in and out of the country.
Photo: EPA-EFE/CLEMENS BILAN