We were all worried that the architects of the EU settlement scheme have forgotten about, or worried little for, its least publicized future customers, about whom “Guardian reading activists” always forget – non-EU family members.  The praise it received in test phases and recently on sites like Free Movement Blog, as well as, it seems, the Inspector report, again, seemed to not ask pertinent questions based on anyone’s actual experience. Understandably since authors of the site are not actually front line practitioners.

Well, spoiler, then – and it surprised even me, who gave 5 years of my life for working almost exclusively and primarily with non-EU family members in their fight for right to reside under EU law, and have come to know the previous HO process for this in and out. The scheme does NOT work for non-EU family members. At all. And while in fact it MIGHT work for NEW ARRIVALS – I simply do not know since I have long stopped taking new clients by the time it opened –

One of the reasons I said I would not work with the scheme was that I knew how bad it was going to be – yet, I decided to experiment on three clients back in February, to confirm my worst fears. Please note I am NOT saying anything in regard to NEW arrivals. I am not interested in those. I am interested in the fater of existing residents with valid EU residence cards.

Client One

Unmarried partner, existing residence card since 2016. Her EU partner did register for the scheme at the same time as her (early February).  She used a biometric card (it was possible for non-EU family members who hold biometric cards to register during open test phase). She mentioned his UAN in her application – all the optimal scenario.

Since he is sporadically self-employed, the system did not automatically recognise him whatsoever, but he did received ILR after 2 weeks based on uploaded docs.  Her – took about 2 weeks to actually get Certificate of application. That is provided we actually uploaded five years of cohabitation docs (there was a theory what if she gets PR at this point, although her RC was indeed issued less than 5 years ago so we concede that bit). Then – nothing.

Until TWO MONTHS later I sent pre-action protocol for Judicial Review, after which I received an email from “EU Settlement updates” service that was writing to say that she cannot get settled status because it’s not been five years. They then asked me to attach current proof of residence to the email, without ANY explanation of what happened to proof previously uploaded. Fair enough, sort of – well, I did attach current proof to return email, which was now 2 weeks ago, but again received NOTHING. We have not heard back.

Thank God for refund of the service fee, because there is ABSOLUTELY NO SERVICE.

Client two

Woman has a PERMANENT RESIDENCE card. She received the card three years ago based on retained right of residence after divorce, in other words – she does not have an EU citizen partner anymore, and is not required to have.

Remember all those ministers saying how they will automatically exchange permanent residence cards, no questions asked? Well, that was a lie, too. A REALLY BIG LIE which is going to hurt a lot of people.

In fact, based on my experience to date, I speculate that whatever uneducated untrained temps/interns that are dealing with the EU Settlement Scheme, have no access whatsoever to CID and are therefore incapable of seeing /confirming information about existing residence cards (or whatever interface they have for that, is broken). So they really cannot verify what one has or has not, including permanent residence, and there seems to be no procedure WHATSOEVER for them to draw this information from the CID.

I am confused because I know that during the test pilot phase many EEA Casework employees at the Capitol building interchangeably used “EU Settlement scheme” letterheads, sometimes it seems by mistake, None of them admitted it to me personally — they literally deflected any direct questions, including people I had normal communications with on almost a daily basis – but I assumed they were being converted into some sort of EU Settlement scheme oversight unit. But seems I was wrong.

In case of this applicant, we used the biometric card to scan her, then answered “yes” to permanent residence card question, but then the system started saying really disturbing things.

The message comes up saying that she is a non-Eu family member and needs to rpvode evidence of relationship with sponsor. WHAAAAAAT? But she has permanent residence – gained years ago based, already then, on divorce, not a relationship! The system appeared to not recognise that fact and not have ANY means of dealing with it. The authors of the scheme lied to us that permanent residence cards were going to be automatically exchanged, they continue to lie to us every day that the scheme is working,  and the Guardian and Free Movement are silent on that for some reason.

I thought well — often Home Office interface designs do not fit the less frequent, even if common, scenarios. So I wrote a cover letter explaining the applicant’s position and uploaded it instead of “relationship evidence”b along with a picture of her permanent residence card. Otherwise it would not let me submit That was TWO MONTHS AGO and she has not received EVEN A CERTIFICATE OF APPLICATION!

In 5 years of practice NOTHING I have seen from HO before has risen to such a level of malfeasance and public deception. The EU Settlement scheme simply DOES NOT WORK AT ALL for existing non-EU family members.  .It does not. No one seems to have highlighted this to the Home Affairs Committee. The public is silent.

BOTH of these two cases remain entirely unresolved, the EU settlement scheme has NO feedback communication channels — in response to PAP in Case 1 I once received an email from a weird email address, but it, too, fell silent. The helpline, to which Home Affairs Select Committee demands that the calls be made free, does absolutely nothing except tell you to wait, even if you already waited what, 3 months? While these people go and LIE that they process cases in a week unless evidence was requested?

Nothing was requested of client 2 at all. Of client one, up to date residence information was requested AND PROVIDED – even though we also provided it initially – and that did not in any way progress the case, it’s been pending soon 4 months.

I had a third client lined up willing to use it, also with a valid residence card, but dissuaded her from doing it altogether, because her husband/sponsor wasn’t yet doing it and I sensed this was a recipe for disaster (I advised him to wait until next year when it is his 5 years in the UK).

I can only tell you therefore what the experience of two of my clients was. If anyone IN THE SAME position had a better experience, please contact me.

But please do not write to tell me that the scheme works for EU citizens — I do not doubt that. It does. It works for EU citizens. But for existing non-EU Family members, they do not work.

And these were actually EASY cases which I actually naively expected to go through. It DOES NOT WORK even on the simplest most basic level.

And yes, if you are a NEW non-EU Family members currently married, who just arrived and wish to get registered, or never held a biometric card and wish to be registered, while married to and at the same time as your EU spouse, sure, It will work for you. DO NOT WRITE. I am not interested.

I am interested in the scheme being able to register people the Home Office already issued with biometric documents — which is does not do even when the sponsor is registered and received settled status –  AND ESPECIALLY exchange existing permanent residence cards for them, which it simply IS NOT DESIGNED to do even by its existing functionality. This is a bigger scandal than I have ever seen, but yet all bloggers and journalists just congratulate each other on successes of the scheme.

 

All of the reports and deceptive circular praises ( eg Free Movement blog praising it based on the scheme officials’ self-reported results, but being themselves unable to scrutinise it because they do not do frontline practice and lack own research) of the scheme, focus on groups that may be left out and “outreach” efforts to inform those groups about the scheme and bring them in. WELL HOW ABOUT INFORMING YOUR EMPLOYEES ABOUT THOSE GROUPS FIRST???

This is beyond appalling, and despite the fact that it instills complete horror in my client No 2 described above, who had received her permanent residence after a long fight (which I fought for her) in 2015, based on a retained right of residence upon a divorce  from a dangerous, abusive man, who does not speak English and whose new husband and both children have received settlement, and who is really, really, scared — she does not exist for The Guardian, the Home Affairs Commitee, and Free Movement blog. None of them have yet realised that the scheme is not at all technically equipped to serve non-EU family members who have permanent residence, and absolutely doe not live up to it promise.

Why? the numbers of non-EU family members, even though they have, for the last few years, comprised most of my practice, are low, relative to the population of vocal, ever entitled and demanding EU citizens, who want everything for free — now citizenship. too!  Let all other immigrants pay for theirs, of course! what 3 million bundles of joy!  why can’t they ever pay for themselves, like everyone else in this country does?!

Yet the same lobby groups care NOTHING about these forgotten, mainly, women, non-EU family members and former family members with permanent right for residence for whom the scheme ALREADY NOW makes NO PROVISION – no functioning provision anyway.

There are not that many non-EU family members and even fewer of them have received docs based on retained right of residence. Everyone forgot about them, and now that I bow out of the scheme, utterly terrified, they have no voice. I simply cannot deal with it. I don’t know what to do. I cannot start a new fight.

New Windrush?

I wrote on this blog long ago that EU citizens and their family members will be a new Windrush – and I am glad that the Home Affairs committee picked it up as well (by itself, I am sure). The report they just released is not irrelevant – it asks relevant and meaningful questions.

But it is unimaginable that no one actually realises that the scheme already doesn’t work and is absolutely incapable of doing what it should for this significant groups of people – eg non-EU Family members with existing biometric cards, especially those with permanent residence cards!

If the scheme REALLY does not intend to recognise existing permanent residence cards and shall require it be re-proved, this is it This is the end. It’s the apocalypse. And so far I am yet to find a single case of a person who has PR on a basis of a no-longer existing relationship whose card was exchanged to settled status “automatically”. This is  is right now the biggest lie in all of my time in UK immigration.

Yet, I still don’t know why can’t they even issue certificates of application based on existing permanent residence cards. Like, they REFUSE to deal with these people! which is THE OPPOSITE of what they keep lying to the public and MPs..

Comments are closed.