Christian Unity and Dialogue
Signposting European nationals for advice on settled status in the UK
The European Affairs Working Group of the Commission for Christian Unity and Dialogue encourages parishes to consider the following advice from EMBRACE on assisting EU nationals in Northern Ireland, who will need to apply for settled status by 30 June next year.
The need to signpost European nationals for advice on settled status in the UK
EMBRACE is a group of Christians from different denominations who have come together to help churches to make this a more welcoming place for people from other countries and ethnic backgrounds. Our work aspires to reflect compassion, respect, love, hospitality and justice; values based on the Gospel and the biblical mandate to cherish each person as an individual created by God. The values are also informed by prayer and an openness to changing realities, so that the group can aspire to be a prophetic voice.
Now that the UK has left the European Union all EU, EEA or Swiss citizens living in Northern Ireland must apply to have their legal status confirmed. They must apply for a new EU immigration status – ‘settled’ or ‘pre–settled’ status – in order to protect their right to continue to live, work, study or access the NHS or other services in the UK. This requirement applies to all the 88,000 (approx.) EU nationals living in NI (unless they have already applied for British or Irish citizenship), no matter how long they have lived here. The deadline for applying is June 30, 2021.
The application for settled status is made online and the process of applying is relatively straightforward. Information on this is available on the Home Office website here: www.gov.uk/settled–status–eu–citizens–families/applying–for–settled–status
Advice NI and the Stronger Together Consortium offer free, independent, multilingual OISC–regulated advice over the phone and online to EU citizens who need help to apply to the EUSS. Face–to–face meetings and appointments are suspended for the moment due to the Covid–19 pandemic. However both organisations continue to offer one–to–one support & specialised legal and/or immigration advice via the telephone and internet to support vulnerable EU citizens with their EUSS applications.
We are concerned that many people locally are still unaware of the importance of applying for Settled Status and how failure to do so would affect them, so we hope that Christians will play a part in signposting people. To find out where advice is available in your area check our website: www.embraceni.org/home/eu–settlement–scheme
We have included some scenarios below to help people realise how seriously people could be affected if they do nothing.
Beatrice has lived in Northern Ireland for over 25 years. She is a Danish national who met and married an Irish man when she was a student. “I’ve lived most of my life in Northern Ireland; my children were born here” she says. “I don’t think this EUSS requirement to register applies to me.” Thinking that the requirement to apply for settled status applies only to recently arrived EU ‘migrants’, she takes no steps to register for settled status. In August 2021, Beatrice is diagnosed with cancer. Her doctor wants to organise hospital treatment. As a preliminary step, she is asked to demonstrate that she is lawfully in the UK and entitled to free use of NHS services. She is unable to do this as she has not gained ‘settled status’; she is told that she is not entitled to free treatment but must pay for it.
Paolo is a Lithuanian national who has lived in Northern Ireland for the last five years; he works in a food factory whenever the work is available. He has limited English and is unaware of the need to apply for the new immigration status for EU nationals. In September 2021, his boss tells him there is a vacancy for a supervisor in the factory and encourages him to apply. As part of the application, Paolo must demonstrate that he is lawfully in the UK and entitled to work here. He is unable to do so and loses both this opportunity and his intermittent employment at the factory.
Roman is a Romanian national living in Belfast for over 10 years. A friend helped him complete his application to the EU Settlement Scheme. As he has been working in a car wash for cash payments, his DWP tax and National Insurance records are incomplete. He can show he has lived in the UK for at least one year, but doesn’t have the documentary evidence to prove he has been continuously resident here for at least five years. He decides to apply to ‘pre–settled status’ as it is easier to prove that he is currently in the UK. In 2025, Roman’s pre–settled status expires, and because he did not apply for settled status instead, he no longer has a legal right to live, work, access health or other services in the UK.
Olivia is a Bulgarian national who has lived in Northern Ireland for seven years. Having been advised she was entitled to ‘permanent residence’ under EU law (as previously existed), she made an application to the Home Office, and has an official document to prove that she has ‘permanent residence’. Thinking that she is protected by this document, Olivia does not apply for settled status under the new EU settlement scheme. As a result, she has no legal right to live, work, access health or other services in the UK.
Photography by Kyle Glenn on Unsplash