More than half a million applications for EU settled status were received by the UK’s Home Office in October, taking the total to 2.4 million.
The spike in numbers is no surprise since the UK was due to exit the EU on 31 October, only for EU leaders to agree to another three month extension after politicians refused to pass the Withdrawal Agreement finalised by Prime Minister Boris Johnson and EU leaders in time to meet the deadline.
Polish citizens lodged 456,600, the highest number, followed by 388,600 Romanian nationals and 259,300 applications from Italian citizens.
However, 40% of these have been given pre-settled status, a figure which increased to 44% in October. Meanwhile, two applications were refused entirely.
Having pre-settled status allows applicants to stay in the UK for five more years, at the end of which they would have to apply again for settled status.
“Pre-settled status is the grey zone and EU citizens need good advice before deciding whether to apply now for pre-settled status or wait until they are eligible for settled status if this falls within the relevant deadlines,” Roger Casale, Secretary General of New Europeans, told EURACTIV.
“Our biggest concern though is for the more vulnerable groups, particularly the elderly or those at risk of discrimination. They are at risk of falling through the net entirely which would put them outside the law and at risk of deportation,” he added.
Under the UK’s Settled Status scheme, EU nationals living in the UK must apply before a December 2020 deadline or risk being deported.
Around 1.2 million applicants have already been given settled status, under which they can stay on indefinitely and eventually apply for British citizenship, if they are eligible.
But civil society activists have reported lengthy delays in a sizeable minority of cases, particularly among non-EU dependents of EU nationals, as well as people being wrongly given pre-settled status.
In a meeting of the European Parliament’s Brexit Steering Group on Tuesday (12 November), MEPs focused on the citizens’ rights provisions contained in the revised Withdrawal Agreement, as well as the attribution of pre-settled and settled status, the possible consequences for EU citizens who fail to apply before the application deadline, and ways to assist vulnerable citizens.
“The Brexit Steering Group is working hard to secure all of this and must also ensure the European Parliament makes good on its December 2017 resolution and insist on a guarantee for the free movement rights of Britons in Europe.”
[Edited by Sam Morgan]