‘Pre-settled status’ EU citizens denied Universal Credit during coronavirus crisis

A European Union flag in front of Big Ben at an anti-Brexit event. Photograph: Daniel Leal-Olivas/PA.

A European Union flag in front of Big Ben at an anti-Brexit event. Photograph: Daniel Leal-Olivas/PA. - Credit: PA

EU citizens rights campaigners The3Million have said that 'numerous' EU nationals are being refused Universal Credit because of their settlement status.

In a letter to the home secretary Priti Patel and work and pensions secretary Thérèse Coffey, the group warned that EU nationals with 'pre-settled status' were being turned away from essential benefits because they had not lived in the UK longer than five years.

The organisation argues this is a violation of the Withdrawal Agreement and the UK's promise to protect the rights of EU citizens living in the country.

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Over a million EU citizens currently hold pre-settled status.

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Co-founder Maike Bohn said: 'The UK is not delivering what was agreed under the Withdrawal Agreement. People aren't able to get the help they need, including benefits. That is so important in times of crisis like COVID where families are facing great hardship.

'The UK's incorrect implementation of the Withdrawal Agreement potentially leaves thousands of EU citizens destitute, without a safety net. We urge the government to remove all bureaucratic hurdles for EU citizens.'

In a letter to MPs, the group wrote: 'Anyone wishing to access Universal Credit must demonstrate that they have a right to reside in the UK i.e. are legally allowed to live in the UK. British citizens do this by providing proof of their nationality.'

'Whilst citizens with Settled Status via the EU Settlement Scheme pass the right to reside test, citizens with pre-settled status do not. Some of their applications are refused.

'The outcome is that citizens with pre-settled status – who have been granted the legal right to reside in the UK - are being discriminated against compared to British citizens.

'This cannot be right. Families are facing great hardship in these very challenging times. Any citizen granted any status via the EU Settlement Scheme should satisfy the right to reside test and be eligible for Universal Credit.'

Termed as the 'habitual residence test', anyone seeking Universal Credit must prove they are resident in the UK in order to receive funds. The government has stated in the Universal Credit Regulation of 2013 that anyone with 'pre-settled status' will not qualify as a resident.

The government is also being criticised for flouting its commitment under the Withdrawal Agreement to protect the rights of any EU citizens who successfully register under the government scheme.

A spokesperson from the Home Office has said: 'The government is protecting the rights of EU citizens resident in the UK. By applying to the EU Settlement Scheme, EU citizens living in the UK will be able to work, study and access benefits and services in the UK on at least the same basis as they do now.

'Whether someone has pre-settled status or settled status, this means they have been accepted through the Scheme and have secured their rights in UK law.'

The3million was formed in 2016 following the referendum on the UK's membership of the EU. It was established to lobby the government on safeguarding the rights of EU citizens and recently advocated for all EU nationals to receive automatic legal status under the EU Settlement Scheme.

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