LONDON (Reuters) – European Union citizens will be given a formal 28-day notice if they fail to apply for settled status in Britain in what the government bills as its pragmatic approach to a post-Brexit immigration system that some users say is difficult to navigate.
Since completing its exit from the EU late last year, Britain is bringing in a new immigration system, ending the priority for citizens from the bloc over people from elsewhere to meet pledged made during the 2016 Brexit referendum.
Around 5.6 million EU citizens have applied for residency rights in Britain before the June 30 deadline, but officials are concerned that without firm figures for how many nationals from the bloc live in the country, some may fail to apply.
“The UK’s approach is very generous. Our EU settlement scheme has been open for more than two years. Many EU countries have an application window of 12 months or less; France’s is currently open for less than nine months,” interior minister Priti Patel wrote in the Telegraph newspaper.
The government has repeatedly said it will look to grant status, rather than look for reasons to refuse it to EU citizens, and adds that the 28-day notice should not be seen as a point when individuals are liable to be removed from Britain.
Under the government’s scheme, EU citizens who can prove they were living in Britain before Dec. 31 will retain the right to work, study and access benefits.
But if EU citizens have not applied within the 28-day notice, they will not be eligible for work, benefits and will lose the right to services such as free non-urgent healthcare.
Lawyers and campaigners estimate there are tens of thousands of EU citizens who risk missing the deadline, some of whom have become ensnared in what they describe as an overly-bureaucratic and poorly functioning system.
(Reporting by Elizabeth Piper. Editing by Andrew MacAskill)