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Fears that some EU citizens in UK will become illegal immigrants overnight

Updated: Feb 16, 2021

By definition, language services are international, and as linguists many of us are, or know and work with, EU, EEA and Swiss citizens both in the UK and abroad. There is concern that not all of these citizens living in the UK are aware of impending changes to their status.

Following Brexit, most EU, EEA and Swiss citizens living in the UK need to apply for "Settled Status" to be permitted to continue to live here. Many have already applied, but according to the Institute for Government "[t]ens - possibly hundreds - of thousands of EU citizens won't apply for settled status". Citizens of EU countries arrived in the UK as of right under freedom of movement, or in earlier years, under more relaxed immigration rules, so the Home Office doesn't know how many EU citizens reside in the UK, who they are, or how to reach them. The deadline for applications ends on 30 June 2021, and there is concern that many EU citizens may not be aware that they are required to apply. Citizens without status will be treated as illegal immigrants once the deadline has passed, and become subject to the "hostile environment". They could then lose access to work, housing or public services.

There are many reasons why people may be unaware of the need to apply. They may be elderly and have been here since childhood, they may have language difficulties, or they may think they do not need to apply. Parents may be unaware that children may not qualify as British despite being born here. However (from

  • were born in the UK but are not a British citizen - you can check if you’re a British citizen if you’re not sure

  • have a UK ‘permanent residence document’

  • are a family member of an EU, EEA or Swiss citizen who does not need to apply - including if they’re from Ireland

  • are an EU, EEA or Swiss citizen with a British citizen family member

If you have children, you need to apply for them separately."

The EU Publications Office has provided a number of leaflets in various languages with information for EU citizens living in the UK, covering different circumstances (eg. children, elderly people, family connection). Campaigning organisation The Three Million has resources to help EU citizens in the UK with the "Settled Status" process, and has produced a report for the Independent Monitoring Authority, an organisation set up to monitor respect for EU citizens' rights by public bodies in the UK.

The deadline of 30 June is already close, as it is important for people to start working on their application in good time, so that they can gather the required information.

Do you know an elderly linguist who came to the UK following the disruption of the 2nd World War, now retired, living alone or in a care home? A young family from the EU who may not be aware their children need to apply? A vulnerable person who would need help with the application process? Please spread the word!

Photo credit: Goldsmith Chambers

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