A child’s tale

Children of EU citizens with (Pre-)Settled Status in the UK do not automatically enjoy their parents’ legal status but must apply in their own right, no matter how old they are. Or they risk becoming automatically undocumented.

So, a teenager needs to apply as does a new-born baby. Their application can be linked to the parents’ status, but it nonetheless is a formal and at times lengthy process to go through. A bumpy ride for many families. *

I witnessed several of my friends go through this process before the application deadline in June 2021 and what became evident was that the application forms were not tailored to any child’s situation.

The child applicant was asked to provide ID and proof of residence, such as council tax bills or bank statements, (sic!). Many parents contacted the Home Office’s Resolution Centre about this and were told that a letter from the child’s school or their GP will suffice as well. GPs were already extremely busy during the pandemic and many schools had to run such a letter past their council, which meant extra work for all as well as longer waiting times and added worries for parents.

Hostile environment

I followed the particular case of friends who wanted to apply for Settled Status for their daughter who had been born in the UK just before the pandemic. This meant that for most of her life, the Romanian Embassy in the UK was closed and her parents were unable to apply for her passport.

When they found out that their little daughter was not automatically given the same legal status as her parents, but they had to apply on her behalf, they were met with a host of problems. To get an application form, they had to call the Resolution Centre, which was already inundated with calls about troublesome applications under EUSS.

It took my friends several hours to get into the phone queue and then another 45 minutes to speak to an advisor. They were initially told that a special application form would be posted to them. It then turned out that the Home Office had changed procedure, so they joined the telephone queue again and were told that the application form would now be sent by email, which could take up to 5 working days. A few days later, however, the Home Office finally decided to make the application forms available online for download.

Unfortunately, the application form was not designed for small children, and it was also very long (39 pages!), with protracted instructions in legalese which most Brits would have difficulties working their way through.

The form asked for proof of residency, so letters from the GP and child minder were obtained and eventually everything was both emailed and posted together with the birth certificate to the Home Office.

Why are we waiting?

This was in June 2021 and the parents are still waiting for a decision almost four months later.

They only recently received their daughter’s birth certificate back and can now finally apply for her passport. However, they are too scared to visit family abroad in case their daughter is then refused entry back into the UK when travelling home because she has not yet been given Settled Status.

“The whole procedure of the application process was unnecessarily stressful and complicated. My wife and I both have Settled Status, why is our small child not automatically entitled to this? Why can’t it just be linked to the parents’ status when registering the birth? It makes no sense.” (Father).

By 30 June 2021, the overall application backlog according to Government data was 606,310 of which 197,140 were for children. Children made up 16.5% of overall applications, but 32.5% of the backlog. Overall backlog data stood at 450,600 on 31 August 2021.

A declaratory system could have avoided all this. Maybe the rules could at least be changed for children?

* As of July 1, EU citizens with pre-settled status face a tight deadline of just three months in which to apply on behalf of their new-born – or the NHS can charge the baby for treatment!

But, if the baby is born British (at least one parent has settled status upon the birth), they are forced to apply instead for a UK passport for the child to guarantee its right to return to the UK. (See more here.)

Larissa Slaney wrote this companion piece to her exposé of EU Nationals’ travails

Image of crying baby via Wikimedia Commons/flickr CC BY-SA 2.0