Over the past few months, we have seen that a large number of EU nationals and their family members are experiencing lengthy delays in their applications under the EU Settlement Scheme. These delays are causing them a great deal of anxiety and stress.
However, this is not new. Indeed, since the scheme fully opened last year, many applicants with particularly “complex cases”, such as individuals with derivative rights of residence or criminal convictions, have been waiting for over 6 months to get a decision. Nevertheless, in the past few months we have come across more applicants complaining about delays, sometimes as long as 13 months, and often with cases which should not have been considered complex.
The EU Settlement Scheme guidance on estimated processing times, last updated on 22 May 2020, states that it usually takes around 5 working days for complete applications to be processed if no further information is required, however it can take up to a month. Applications are, according to the guidance, likely to take “longer than a month” (without specifying how much longer) in some situations, such as when more information is necessary or when the applicant has submitted a paper application form. There is no mention in the guidance that applications could face delays of longer than three, six or even twelve months.
We are aware that the Home Office has made a great effort in making the EU Settlement Scheme work and is processing a large number of applications within a very tight deadline. We are also aware that some delays may be caused by eventualities that may be outside the Home Office’s full control, such as the Covid-19 pandemic. However, what is certainly within the Home Office’s power is to make sure that the information contained in their published guidance is correct and accurate. The current processing times guidance does not reflect real processing times in practice and this is causing unnecessary distress. This is particularly affecting vulnerable applicants, such as homeless individuals or victims of domestic violence as well as non-EU family members who are waiting months for their applications often leaving them with no formal documentation to prove their status.
Delays may sometimes be the result of an applicant failing to provide necessary evidence, for example, when an applicant has failed to respond to a request for further evidence following a request or if the Police National Computer shows that an applicant has an ongoing police investigation or pending prosecution. Whilst acknowledging the above, we have also encountered a number of cases where the Home Office had all the necessary information that was needed to make a decision in relation to an applicant and yet failed to reach a timely decision without a reasonable excuse. In those cases, the delay may no longer be justified and the applicant should consider taking legal action.
Our immigration team at Bindmans has been successful in challenging delays affecting applications under the EU Settlement Scheme. We have obtained decisions as quickly as within one or two days after sending correspondence to the Home Office. This has occurred even in cases where the applicant has made multiple attempts to progress their applications and have been left in limbo for more than six months.
To challenge the delay is particularly important given the current situation with Brexit. The ongoing failure by the Home Office to make timely decisions under the EU Settlement Scheme may cause applicants not only significant mental stress about their future in the UK, but many may be wrongly denied benefits, tenancies or employment in the UK.
If you need help challenging the Home Office’s delay in processing your application under the EU Settlement Scheme or have been wrongfully discriminated based on your EU nationality, please contact our immigration team.