Citizens’ rights confusion causes headaches on both sides of the Channel

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Under the UK’s Settlement Scheme, EU citizens can apply to receive ‘settled status’ if they have lived here for a continuous period of five years, or ‘pre-settled status’ if the period of their residence has been less than that. Those who receive ‘pre-settled status’ can then apply for settled status once they meet the five-year rule. Under either status, individuals can access work, services and benefits. There are around 3.2 million EU citizens living in the UK and more than 2.5 million applications have already been made from among them.

However, the European parliament has voiced its disquiet at the potential exposure of EU citizens living in the UK to discrimination on issues such as access to housing after Brexit. Confusion over how settled status rules will be applied and the implementation of an e-registration system has created some mistrust of the online process. In turn, this has led to growing calls for EU citizens to be given documentation to prove their right to remain in the UK instead. The counter argument is that such documents could be lost, stolen or subject to fraud.

And there‘s added apprehension surrounding the nature of the monitoring body that is expected to be established to deal with complaints about how applications are handled.

The uncertainty over Brexit that’s had a significant impact in the UK during the last three years has been equally felt across Europe. In some cases, it has stalled or limited the degree to which authorities are prepared for the changes that will result from it.

There are concerns that this response may impact negatively on the rights of 2.2 million UK citizens living in mainland Europe, regardless of their legal status. As the administration surrounding migration is devolved to local authorities in many EU countries, there are fears this could be exacerbated by an inequality in how those rights are addressed.

There is, at least, one unified message that’s being delivered to all citizens who may be affected by the changes ahead – apply to confirm your status sooner rather than later.