Several initiatives to inform EU nationals in the UK about their changing status are being planned by EU and UK authorities ahead of Brexit.
EU citizens will have to apply for a new “settlement scheme” to prove their right to stay in the UK and continue enjoying public services once the country leaves the European Union. The “settlement scheme” will be phased in this year and will be fully open by 30 March 2019, with 30 June 2021 set as the deadline for applications. Many people, however, are not aware of this. There are also concerns some might have difficulties accessing the online application system which is being designed by the Home Office.
“The 3 million European citizens are spread throughout the UK, including many remote and rural locations. They may not all be connected to the internet or have a good mobile telephone signal. Many do not currently understand that applying will be necessary to regularise their status in the UK. It would be regrettable if there was a low take-up for the scheme due to a lack of awareness,” recently noted the House of Commons Exiting the European Union Committee.
The risk is that some people might be unable to demonstrate their legal status in the UK after 2021. So European and British authorities have started to support information initiatives to reach all those who need to take action. Here are some of the available options.
Organise an event and the EU Commission provides a lawyer
The European Commission office in the UK is supporting the organisation of information sessions for EU nationals providing legal support for free.
Existing community groups (e.g. Facebook groups, community associations or registered charities) are eligible to apply. They have to organise a 2-hour event gathering some 40 people and the European Commission will ensure a qualified solicitor will attend for free. The expert will explain EU citizens’ rights and how to retain them after Brexit. Questions will be taken from the audience, but sessions are not meant to provide individual advice.
“We received a lot of requests of information and we realised the provision and cost of legal professionals was a key barrier for local groups,” said a Commission spokesperson. The programme will initially run until March 2019 and is expected to support some 100 events. The European Commission received thirty requests in the first two weeks from the launch of the initiative.
Link to book events: www.eurights.uk
Get funds from the Mayor of London
Community groups and small civil society organisations in London can also bid for up to 2,000GBP for outreach activities aimed at EU nationals. Of the over three million EU citizens living in the UK, about one million are Londoners. The Mayor of London is launching soon an online portal to inform them.
Meanwhile, grants have been made available to organise information sessions targeting EU nationals. “Funding could go towards venue hire, legal surgeries, town hall events, or time spent planning the outreach and printing costs to ensure events are as accessible as possible,” says the notice. Advice and guidance for smaller organisations, as well as connections to immigration lawyers “who can attend information sessions for free” can also be provided.
The deadline to apply for this support scheme is 20 August. For more info: https://www.london.gov.uk/what-we-do/business-and-economy/apply-european-londoners-outreach-funding
Inform employees with a toolkit from the Home Office
The UK Home Office has prepared an information pack for businesses that employ EU citizens with the purpose of increasing “awareness about the EU settlement scheme and what EU citizens need to know and do”. The Home Office has been working with industry groups to develop the information pack which can be directly used by company leadership, human resources and line managers of EU citizens and EU employees.
The information pack states that employers “have a duty not to discriminate against EU citizens in light of the UK’s decision to leave the EU” and that current EU rights remain unchanged until the end of 2020. Employers have no obligation to inform their EU staff and are not expected to pay for their employees’ application for the EU settlement scheme (the cost is 65 GBP for adults and 32.5 GBP for children), but they are “welcome to do so” at their discretion, says the Home Office.
Link to the toolkit: https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/eu-settlement-scheme-employer-toolkit
Claudia Delpero © all rights reserved
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