Citizens rights and the digital barrier

In the past months we have seen huge coverage of Brexit and related issues in the media, a lot of it referring to the rights and responsibilities of EU citizens who want to remain in the UK after Brexit, says Nina Luznar of Citizens Advice & Rights Fife.

A lot of it highlights the uncertainty and confusion around the new immigration process for people, from all walks of life affected by the settlement process. 

One of the twin aims of a Citizens Advice Bureau (CAB) service is to ensure that individuals do not suffer through ignorance of their rights and responsibilities or of the services available; or through an inability to express their needs. It is fitting then that Citizens Advice & Rights Fife is part of a national CAB service in Scotland for European citizens affected by changes in the immigration rules as a result of the UK leaving the EU. 

The aim is to focus on people who might experience difficulty in accessing or using the required technology to complete their application; or who find it difficult to get the evidence needed to apply; or are at greater risk due to personal circumstances and have specific immigration or residency issues. 

Citizens Advice Scotland (CAS) has introduced a National Helpline where clients can get advice on the EU Settlement Scheme and if support is required, face to face appointments can then be arranged within our extensive Bureau Network. 

As an additional support to advisers, a solicitor-led service has been established to deal with difficult and complex cases specifically connected with suitability and appeals.

To help illustrate the value and importance of this service, I would like you to take you on just one of our client’s journeys so far:

Client A visited their local Bureau in Dunfermline for support due to uncertainty around the application process for Settled Status.  A Bulgarian national, who had been living in the UK since 2013, they could communicate in English but were very anxious about misunderstanding questions or providing incorrect information. They also faced a digital barrier, as they did not possess a suitable device on which the settled status app could be installed.

Because of the language and digital barriers posed by applying, a face to face appointment was arranged in bureau for the client. The online process went relatively smoothly, up until the adviser completed the residency check. After submitting the client’s national insurance number the automated background check suggested that client A would only be granted pre-settle status; unless they provided further evidence of residence for the years 2013, 2014, 2015 and 2016.

After discussing, what kind of evidence the client had available or could obtain, the adviser and client agreed to provide annual bank statements and contact HMRC, to get a report of all Client A’s employment in the UK.

During the application process, Client A disclosed details of a minor criminal conviction, for which they were fined. The worker contacted the solicitor led service, who advised to declare the conviction and that was completed in the application.

Once Client A returned to the bureau with their residency evidence, the adviser uploaded the evidence to their already saved application. Client A then received settled status, or indefinite leave to remain, within two weeks. The client’s experience was relatively smooth, given that they only needed to visit the bureau twice in order to complete the application and the final outcome was a great result for both the client and the service.

The case study is just one example of the great outcomes delivered by the project so far. It also highlights the difficulties citizens have when it comes to gathering evidence and identification documents. It is therefore essential that these groups of clients get help at an early stage. 

With the help and support of trained advisers, EU citizens in Fife have the best opportunity to be successful in their applications, at the first time of asking and be given the right to remain in the UK post Brexit; helping them to continue to live and contribute within the communities, that they have chosen to be their home.  The service is free, confidential and impartial.

Nina Luznar is EU Settlement Service Support Worker who can be contacted here: eucitizens@carfonline.org.uk or visit

https://www.cas.org.uk/brexit