Politics

British expats deadline: Tens of thousands of Britons have 30days to save residency rights

Boris Johnson 'needs to step up for British expats' says expert

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Citizens who have emigrated to France, Malta, Luxembourg and Latvia have until June 30 to ensure they retain their rights to remain. Campaigners have warned that large numbers of them still haven’t applied to confirm their status to stay in the bloc after Brexit. After the UK left the EU last year, the bloc was divided into two groups when it comes to helping UK citizens with their rights to remain.

Fourteen countries, including Italy, Spain and Portugal, introduced systems automatically granting post-Brexit residence rights to Britons who were already living in their countries lawfully.

But the remaining 13 required British citizens to apply to confirm their status.

According to the UK-EU joint committee on citizens’ rights, set up as part of the 2019 Brexit divorce deal, around 298,000 Britons live in the 13 countries where applications are needed.

Only 190,000 have done so, leaving over 100,000 people facing a last-ditch scramble to ensure they are allowed to remain in the EU.

About 26,000 of France’s 150,000 Britons have not yet registered, as well as 5,300 living in Malta, 1,700 living in Luxembourg and 800 living in Latvia.

Michaela Benson, professor of public sociology at Lancaster University, who specialises in British residents of the EU, said the group faced a “hard headline, after which a lot of people could lose their rights”.

She told the Guardian: ““We urgently need more communication — from the UK, the EU and member states — to get in touch, especially with hard-to-reach, vulnerable UK citizens who risk missing a vital cut-off point.”

Professor Benson added that people might end up “falling through the gaps” or could people those who “are just scraping by, perhaps in remote areas” or “homeless British people, sick British people, British children in care”.

Britons could also been affected in the Netherlands, where 3,000 are still yet to reply.

Their deadline is October 1.

In the other group of countries, where post-Brexit residency rights are automatic, there are an estimated 762,000 British citizens.

Many are still being encouraged to register, but the penalties for not doing so are less severe or non-existent.

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Europeans living in the UK also face a June 30 deadline to secure settled status in the country.

The scheme, introduced under the 2019 Withdrawal Agreement, is open to EU, EEA or Swiss citizens who were living in the UK before December 31, 2020.

After the cut-off date, Europeans who want to live and work in the UK will have to apply through the new post-Brexit immigration system.

Figures released by the Home Office showed that more than 5.4 million people have applied for the scheme in the past two years.

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Of the completed applications, 53 percent were granted settled status, giving them the right to live and work in the UK indefinitely.

Forty-four percent were offered pre-settled status, which lasts for five years and can be followed by settled status.

A joint statement released by the UK and the EU officials on the citizens’ rights committee last Friday said: “The UK and the EU recalled that EU citizens in the UK and UK nationals in France, Latvia, Luxembourg, Malta and the Netherlands need to apply for a new residence status by June 30, 2021, in order to be protected by the withdrawal agreement.

“The UK and the EU also emphasised the importance of providing clear communications and comprehensive support to vulnerable or hard-to-reach citizens. Public and non-public bodies must also work to ensure that beneficiaries of the withdrawal agreement are able to enjoy their rights and entitlements, particularly when accessing benefits and services and exercising their right to work, rent and study.”

Express.co.uk approached the Foreign Office for comment. 

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