EU citizens will not be given a physical document to prove their immigration status, it will be digital-only. Let’s not forget that 22% of people do not have the Essential Digital Skills needed for day-to-day life in the UK.
Non-EU Citizens Have Physical Proof
In contrast, non-EU citizens are given physical proof of their settled or pre-settled status. Absurdly, this means non EU family members will get physical proof of their status whilst their EU relatives will not.
On a mystery shopping exercise, only 3 out of 150 landlords explicitly stated they would be willing to go through the online checks required to verify EU citizens’ right to rent.
Peace Of Mind Denied
In the largest survey to date of EU citizens’ experience with the EU Settlement Scheme, 89% expressed their desire for physical proof of their status. A petition with thousands of signatures has been handed into the government they rejected it with a series of arguments which the3million comprehensively rebutted.
EU citizens will be the only group without physical proof of status and they appear to have been used as an experiment for a wider roll-out of digital-only status
We want to ensure that no EU citizen will face problems staying, re-entering, working, finding housing and accessing education and essential services, due to a lengthy online process of which the functioning is not always guaranteed. Let’s not forget that, around 22% of people do not have the Essential Digital Skills required for dealing with this process.
Everyone wants to see an immigration system that treats people fairly and justly – where people who have come to the UK and are living here lawfully do not struggle to demonstrate their rights, as happened during the Windrush scandal. Having a physical document such as a biometric residence permit, like those issued to non-EU citizens, will give peace of mind to all those living and working in the UK as it will facilitate proving our immigration status.
Why Physical Proof in addition to digital proof is essential
Physical Proof gives greater peace of mind
EU Citizens will need to continuously prove our status in our everyday lives:
• to find work
• rent a home or get a mortgage
• access social care and the NHS
• access welfare (including benefits and pensions)
• access education for themselves and their children
• open a bank account and obtain other financial services
• travel in and out of the UK
The European Parliament, in January 2020, resolved that:
“A greater sense of security would be generated for EU-27 citizens in the UK if they were issued with a physical document as proof of their right to reside in the UK.”
Digital-only proof increases the risk of discrimination
Many EU citizens do not have easy access to devices or do not have the digital skills to use them – this is likely to disproportionately affect vulnerable citizens such as people with disabilities and chronic health issues, older adults, people who are homeless or insecurely housed and others who are socially isolated.
As EU citizens, we will be the only group of residents in the UK without physical proof of status: digital-only status is inherently discriminatory.
To prove our right to live our lives under the current digital-only system, we and our prospective service providers, landlords or employers will need to go through a lengthy online process.
A European Parliament resolution in January 2020, stated that a lack of physical proof:
“will further increase the risk of discrimination against EU-27 citizens by prospective employers or landlords who may want to avoid the extra administrative burden of online verification, or erroneously fear that they might place themselves in an unlawful situation”
Many EU citizens risk being disconnected from their status, now and far into the future. Consider someone whose parent set up the status for them years ago, and they have no access to the email address or telephone number that was linked to their settled status. Consider someone without digital literacy who was helped to apply for their settled status by an advisor – with the advisor’s contact details used. Consider a victim of trafficking who, even if they manage to retrieve their passport and escape, would still be separated from proof of their status since status is controlled by whoever has access to that vital email address and telephone number.
Digital-only systems fail to give security to the people who depend on them
The Government rejected a petition to provide Physical Proof in August 2019, claiming that the EUSS provides “a secure digital status, which unlike a physical document cannot be lost, stolen, damaged or tampered with”.
This is demonstrably not true. As we all know, digital systems fail: they crash and go offline, they get hacked, subjected to data breaches, and records get tampered with: we have reported cases where this has happened to EUSS applicants.
Our advocacy team has issued a robust rebuttal of the government response to the petition
A print out does not constitute physical proof: The Home Office has confirmed that “ It has always been the case that people could print a copy of their confirmation letter, but this can’t be used as evidence of status”.
And finally: the Government sometimes agrees that physical proof is a good thing!
In 2018 the Government themselves made the case for physical proof of status over digital-only in relation to a trial of Right to Work checks using both physical and digital proof.
In 2019 the Science and Technology Committee said in its report ‘Digital Government’ that the Government should “ensure that those who are not digitally connected have alternative ways of accessing services”.
Michael Gove said in May 2020 that “The moral and social case for it [physical proof] remains as strong as ever”.