Emma spent her whole life thinking she was a British citizen.
Born in England to a Portuguese mother, she has lived exclusively here and has a British birth certificate.
So I was very surprised when the 22-year-old's request for a British passport was rejected.
After Brexit, EU citizens living in the UK have been offered the opportunity to apply for settled status.
But last year, Emma realized she had missed the application deadline.
When she applied to be a carer and had to prove her right to work, she understood that she was not officially a British citizen.
She cannot appeal the Home Office decision and risks being deported to a country she has never lived in.
“When I got the rejection letter, I was basically told how I had to leave the country,” she said, adding, “I was shocked.”
Emma (pseudonym) said, “There is a high possibility that I will be deported to Portugal and separated from my family.”
“I guess I’ll have to start a whole new life.”
Image: Emma was told she had not provided 'sufficient information or evidence'.
Emma's mother successfully applied for settled status, allowing her to remain in the UK permanently.
Emma was told she could resubmit her application with additional evidence showing there were reasonable grounds for her late application. She is doing this, but in the meantime she cannot work, open a bank account, rent a flat or access secondary care on the NHS.
The deadline for most people to apply for settled status was June 30, 2021, but applications will still be considered past that deadline.
However, in August 2023, the Home Office tightened the criteria for those who applied late to apply on 'reasonable grounds'.
From July 2022 to June 2023, an average of 1,730 applications were found to be invalid per month, but that number jumped to 9,470 in August 2023, and again to 13,930 in September, the most recent month for which official data is available. increased.
Emma's situation is also faced by other European citizens in the UK.
Dumitru Calota, a Romanian bus driver who has been working in the UK since 2016, was told his application for settled status could be rejected on the grounds of “false documents”.
Mr Carlotta has pre-settled status (permission to remain in the country for five years), which in his case expires in 2025. He has been trying to obtain settled status.
He submitted an HSBC bank statement as proof of residence but was told by the Home Office his statement was a “false document” and is considering refusing his application.
“I was treated like a criminal,” he said. “We did not expect that the Home Office would consider an official document to be false.”
Image: Dumitru Calota was told he submitted false documents.
Luke Piper, immigration director at the Work Rights Center, fears the growing number of invalid applications will create a whole new class of vulnerable people who could be exploited because they lack settled status.
“There will be undocumented people in the UK for a long time, and they will be increasingly undocumented, unable to work, unable to rent and vulnerable to potential exploitation.” he said
“We have come across cases of people who have not applied for the resettlement scheme being exploited by bad employers and smugglers.”
A Home Office spokesperson said: “More than two years have passed since the widely publicized application deadline for the scheme. We continue to accept and consider late applications from those who have reasonable grounds for delaying their application.”
“The EU Settlement Scheme has provided millions of EU citizens and their eligible family members with the immigration status they need to continue living and working in the UK after leaving the EU.”
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