LONDON — European citizens in the U.K. have the right to stay after Brexit but many fear the system designed to let them prove it may yet let them down.
More than 400,000 eligible citizens from European Economic Area countries and Switzerland have not yet applied for the U.K.’s EU Settlement Scheme, according to the U.K.’s Office for National Statistics. The deadline for the scheme, which allows citizens to prove they have the right to continue to live, work and access public services in the U.K. now that Britain has left the EU, is June 30, 2021.
Organizations that help citizens with the process say vulnerable groups, such as older people, low-skilled workers, children and the homeless, may not have access to the digital registration system or may be unaware they need to register.
Even among those who have secured settled status, concern remains that flaws in the system — in particular the lack of physical proof of their status — may mean bureaucratic headaches continue long after Brexit.
The Home Office rejects the concerns and announced this month that more than 3 million EU nationals have successfully applied for settled status.
Home Office Minister Brandon Lewis insists the EU Settlement Scheme provides Europeans in the country with a “secure, digital status which can’t be lost, stolen or tampered with.”
“There is … plenty of support available across the U.K. for those who need help in applying, including a helpline and face-to-face support, and paper application forms and even home visits for vulnerable people,” a spokesperson said.
Home Office Minister Brandon Lewis declined a request for an interview.