EU citizens applying to remain in the UK following Brexit have been warned their application may take longer to be processed.
Due to the pressures imposed by the coronavirus outbreak, the Home Office warned that new applications under the EU Settlement Scheme will take “longer than usual” to be decided.
Around 600,000 EU, EEA and Swiss nationals are yet to apply under the scheme before the 30 June 2021 deadline. About three million people have been granted authority to remain in the UK.
“While applications continue to be processed, during this challenging time they will take longer than usual. A range of support continues to be available online, by email and telephone for those who have questions or need help applying,” the Home Office said in a blog post.
“The Home Office is keeping this situation under constant review and will endeavour to reinstate support services and application routes to their original capacity in line with public health guidance.”
Some support services and application routes had changed temporarily. Its ‘settlement resolution centre’ will continue to respond to email enquiries and call applicants back where required, but due to many of its staff working from home, they are no longer able to answer incoming telephone calls.
“However, individuals can continue to apply using any laptop or mobile device and they can still use the “EU Exit ID Document check app” to complete the identity stage of their application,” advised the Home Office.
ID document scanner locations and the postal route for submitting identity evidence have been suspended, but documents that had already been posted will be processed and returned as quickly as possible.
“The government has made clear that where a person eligible for leave under the EU Settlement Scheme has reasonable grounds for missing the application deadline, they will be given a further opportunity to apply,” the Home Office added.
Chetal Patel, a lawyer at Bates Wells, said: “With the world on lockdown due to the Covid-19 pandemic, individuals are having to re-evaluate travel plans but this shouldn’t hinder submitting applications. You don’t need to be physically in the UK to send in an application under the EUSS as the application can be made using a laptop or mobile.
“Whilst the world is adjusting to a new ‘business as normal’, individuals affected by the EU referendum result need to also continue ‘as normal’ and get their status now.”