Nearly 90% of the participants who have completed a survey organised by the Citizens Rights Project have said that they would like to have a physical proof of their pre-settled or settled status to reside in the UK. At the moment, EU citizens who have the right to stay in the UK can only prove that with a digital profile.
Most respondents described feeling stressed and anxious, with fears they could be discriminated against using a digital-only migration system. They stated that physical evidence will make the process of proving their right to live, work and study in the UK faster and easier and would give them a greater sense of security and peace of mind. Fear of website glitches and technology, as well as lack of trust in the Home Office and the UK Government are some of the other reasons listed by the participants. Many even fear another Windrush Scandal.
One the contributors to the survey states: “I feel defenseless without a proper way of proving my status when I cross the border for example. There is a way of getting a QR code or similar, but it is temporary and only valid for specific situations. I applied for my citizenship and in the form, when it says ‘prove your status’ I had to attach a letter from the government, and the first line of the letter says ‘this is not a proof of your status”
This is not an unfounded fear. Many citizens with pre-settled or settled status have already reported issues with their digital profile. In the survey, 38% of participants confirmed having experienced problems due to the lack of physical proof of their status. These include losing their employment or job opportunities; problems when accessing benefits, housing or healthcare; being removed from their accommodation; having to pay for medical care; or issues when travelling or crossing the border.
It is important to highlight that the vast majority of the people who participated in the survey and demands physical evidence of their status confirmed having good English and IT skills. The position of those who don’t possess those skills, particularly vulnerable people who are most likely to face issues when using their digital profile and would benefit greatly from having a physical document, are likely to be even more serious.
Noelia Martínez, Project coordinator of the Citizens Rights Project says: “Many of our clients are still confused about how they are supposed to prove their right to live and work in the UK using their digital profile. In fact, a high percentage of the queries that we have received after the deadline to apply to the EU Settlement Scheme on 30/06/2021, are related to accessing, updating or proving their status. Unfortunately, using technology, the Internet and a web page to generate a “share code” is a concept that is very difficult for many to grasp. Digital exclusion is a reality and no matter how many one-to-one sessions we do and how many multilingual resources we create, many people will still encounter difficulties and will be discriminated against because everything is done online through a digital profile. For those with limited English, this is just another barrier added to the mix. We, therefore, urge the UK government to provide physical proof to citizens with pre-settled and settled status.”