The governments of Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland have urged the Home Office to provide EU citizens in Britain with a physical document to prove their immigration status after Brexit, or risk “confusion and discrimination”.
A letter to Immigration Minister Kevin Foster, sent jointly by the Scottish Minister for Europe, the Wales Minister for Social Justice and the First and First Deputy Executive Minister of Northern Ireland on Wednesday, warns of “a number of difficulties” for the EU citizens due to lack of evidence of their status.
After Brexit, EU and EEA citizens and their family members who wanted to stay in Britain had to apply for the EU Settlement Program or are automatically faced with undocumentation.
The Home Office says it provides selected applicants with a digital-only copy of their status to ensure they have “continuous access to evidence of their status” and that it is in line with “the shift to digital status in all areas of life”.
However, mandated administrations warn that depriving EU citizens of a physical document, and thus having “two types of group tests”, “would lead to confusion at best and at worst. of cases of discrimination “.
In their letter to the minister, they warned that only digital proof has made it difficult for EU citizens to prove their status to employers, who could face the threat of civil penalties for not properly performing right-to-work checks.
The letter reads: “As you know, EU citizens are currently required to request a digital code and send it to their employer, who then checks the citizen’s immigration status on the UK government website.”
“This process can be considered bureaucratic and time consuming, and prevents employers from offering work to EU citizens. Faced with two candidates, one with physical proof and the other with digital proof, employers may find it easier to offer work to the former.”
It also raises concern for vulnerable EU citizens, such as older people and people with mental and physical disabilities, who may have poor digital literacy skills or simply do not have routine access to the Internet and therefore struggle to establish their own. status.
“An individual’s vulnerability can change over time, including their digital skills. People in controlling or abusive relationships can be particularly harmed due to a lack of physical evidence. Perpetrators of domestic violence monitor people’s email and phone accounts. the victims, “the letter adds.
The ministers note that the UK government is offering a physical backup of digital vaccine passports, with the NHS digital Covid card allowing people to share their vaccination records, but also with the ability to request a copy. printed from your passport.
They claim: “If the UK government can provide safe and secure passports for paper vaccines, it can do the same for the immigration status of EU citizens, and QR technology means such documents are difficult to tamper with or falsify. “.
It comes as government figures reveal that the EU settlement plan had received 6159,800 applications as of the end of August, although 7.3 percent (450,600) had yet to be finalized, raising broader concerns about how these people will establish their status.
Luke Piper, Head of Policy at th3million, a campaign group campaigning for a physical document for EU citizens, said: “We are very happy that delegated administrations see the problems we are having with a digital only system. We continue to receive many complaints about problems through our Our Report-It tool is growing.
“It is time to do the right thing and provide people with physical support.”
A spokesman for the Interior Ministry said the ministry is working to develop a “virtual digital” immigration and border system for all foreign nationals, which, it said, means over time replacing physical and paper products and services “each once again with products that are more accessible and user-friendly. Electronic and digital services. ”
“Physical documents can be lost or expire, but digital status cannot, and can be accessed at any time. It’s quick and easy to share digital status with employers, owners, and other organizations, and between October 2019 and June 2021 , The verification service saw 640 A profile views of organizations that verify immigration status.