EU Settled status – what to do and why it is important
As the June 30 deadline for applications to the EU Settlement Scheme draws near The Fostering Network urges all members to make sure the children in their care and children who left care have the correct immigration status. Steven, a Mockingbird hub home carer, shares his experiences of securing the Right to Remain for the boy living with him.
On 31 January 2020 the UK left the EU after negotiating a deal called the EU-UK Withdrawal Agreement. The Withdrawal Agreement included a grace period which prevented European citizens (by this we mean EU, EEA, or Swiss citizens) finding themselves suddenly without lawful residence status.
This grace period is ending on the 30 June 2021 and all EU, European Economic Area and Swiss citizens who want to live in the UK must apply for a new immigration status through the EU Settlement Scheme by that date.
These rules also apply not just to adults but also to children and young people. In the case of looked after children responsibility for submitting applications lies with their local authorities.
We talked to Steven, a Mockingbird hub home carer, about his experience of getting the Right to Remain for a young man in his care.
Birth certificates don’t guarantee the right to remain
‘We’ve been foster carers for three years and became a Mockingbird hub home in March this year. We are also permanent carers for our little boy who is ten and was born in the UK. He came to us with a British birth certificate which we used when opening a bank account for him.’
It is a common misunderstanding that having a British birth certificate gives people the right to live in the UK – this isn’t the case as Steven discovered: ‘We later learned that our little boy was in fact born a citizen of his parents’ home country, Slovakia, and his UK birth certificate only proved his birth took place in the UK.’
It became clear how complex this situation was when Steven talked to the fostering service about applying for a passport so the family could plan a foreign holiday. As a Slovakian citizen the boy wasn’t eligible for a British passport and they discovered his birth had never been registered in Slovakia so there was no way to get a Slovakian passport either.
The importance of settled status
The boy’s parents had been living lawfully in the UK as EU citizens, but with the change in law following Brexit it was now vital to formalise the boy’s citizenship and right to remain in the UK.
When Steven became aware that despite being born in the UK their little boy did not have the same rights as British citizens he was worried ‘that in later life if he did something wrong he could be deported to a country that he has never ever been to.’
Anyone without settled status by the 30 June 2021 deadline could lose lawful status to remain in the UK and risks becoming undocumented. This potentially leaves vulnerable young people unable to access benefits and healthcare services, unable to work, open a bank account or hold a driving licence. They would be at increased risk of homelessness and with that exploitation as well as potentially facing detention and deportation.
The process – citizenship, I.D. documents and right to remain
As the little boy had no legal identification documents they needed to be obtained before an application to the EU settlement scheme could proceed. Fortunately, Steven and the child’s social worker were supported by the local authority who had employed a dedicated worker to support applications on behalf of looked after children.
Steven explained the process they needed to go through: ’First we had to verify that the child was a Slovakian citizen who was born in the UK. To do this the child’s social worker worked with a lawyer to complete a substantial amount of paperwork proving the boy’s birth and attendance at school in the UK. This then needed to be translated by a second Slovakian approved lawyer and was submitted to the Slovakian Embassy. Once this was complete the birth could be registered in Slovakia and a birth certificate issued with a copy returned to the UK this provided proof of citizenship.
Once the Slovakian birth certificate had been received the boy’s social worker took him to the Slovakian Embassy in London to apply for a passport. This provided photographic ID required for an application to the EU citizenship scheme.
Now the process has been finalised the boy has kept his Slovakian citizenship and crucially has gained the right to remain in the UK. Steven hopes in the future, they will be able to support their little boy to apply for full British Citizenship.
Make sure to check young people's status
According to both a survey undertaken by the home office and responses to a freedom of information request submitted to local authorities by the Children’s Society in early 2021 under 50 per cent of looked after children and care leavers who have been identified as eligible for the EU Settlement Scheme had submitted applications. This means an estimated 2000 looked after children and care leavers living in the UK had not submitted applications to secure their rights and are at risk.
Steven urges all foster carers to thoroughly check all documents relating to the heritage of the young people in their care and reminds them to ensure – if they are eligible – that their child’s social worker has submitted the application on the child’s behalf. He also reiterates that having a British birth certificate does not guarantee you are British.
Resources for local authorities and foster carers supporting applications to the EU Settlement Scheme for children who are EU, European Economic Area and Swiss citizens:
- Looked After Children and the EU Settlement Scheme: A guide for local authorities from the Children's Society
- EU Settlement Scheme: looked-after children and care leavers guidance from the Home Office
- Resources and fact sheets from Coram Children’s Legal Centre on the EU settlement Scheme and Children’s Rights