Up to 80,000 EU nationals could lose their right to live in the UK due to faults in the EU Settlement Scheme, according to concerning data compiled by a law firm.
Bates Wells warned that thousands of applicants could find themselves unable to get a new job or move house – while some may even lose their jobs or face deportation, CityAM revealed.
EU citizens and their families were asked to apply to the Home Office by June 30 in order to carry on living and working in the UK after freedom of movement ended following the Brexit transition period.
Significant processing backlogs have emerged since the deadlines for the scheme closed in June, with reports suggesting the Home Office was surprised by the high number of applicants.
According to provisional Home Office figures, 58,200 applications were received after the deadline up to the end of July.
More than six million applications (6,015,400) were submitted between the launch of the scheme in March 2019 and the closing date of 30 June 2021.
More than 2.8 million of those (2,846,700) were granted settled status, allowing them permanent leave to remain.
A further 2.3 million (2,329,400) were granted pre-settled status, meaning they need to reapply after living in the country for five years to gain permanent residence.
The Home Office said eight per cent of the applications were from “repeat applicants” (464,000) – suggesting an estimated 5.5 million people had applied to the scheme before the deadline.
Some 109,400 applications were refused, 80,800 were withdrawn or void, and 79,800 were deemed invalid – where the Home Office decides someone is not eligible to apply or has failed to provide sufficient proof of residence.
“These are potentially huge numbers of people who have made the UK their home and are struggling to secure the documents required to continue with day to day activities such as changing jobs or moving house,” Matthew James, associate at Bates Wells, said.
“Even if that 80,000 figure is reduced by 90 per cent that is an incredible number of people who are going to have their lives completely and traumatically, upended.”
His colleague Chetal Patel, a partner at the law firm, added: “These application errors could be hugely costly and people may face the wrath of the hostile environment policies.
“Individuals may face hostility with employers and landlords raising new exclusions wrongly.”
More than 58,000 applications were made to the EU Settlement Scheme in the month after the deadline passed, figures released earlier this month suggest.
It is not known how many people in the UK are eligible for the scheme but could remain in the country undocumented.
Anyone who is yet to apply effectively loses their lawful immigration status after the deadline. This could prevent them getting a new job or moving house until their status is confirmed under the scheme.
Campaigners have previously called for the law to be changed to automatically protect the rights of EU citizens and their families continuing to live in the UK to make sure they do not face discrimination or lose access to services like healthcare.
There are limited reasonable grounds for submitting late applications, including where parents, guardians or councils have failed to apply on behalf of a child; those with serious medical conditions preventing them from applying in time; or “compelling or compassionate reasons” in light of the coronavirus pandemic.