The IMA has today (Friday, 15 October) issued a Pre-Action Protocol letter* to the Home Office. The letter sets out in detail the IMA’s concerns that EU, EEA and EFTA citizens and their family members will lose their residence status if they do not apply for settled status before the expiry of their pre-settled status.
The IMA considers that the automatic loss of residence status for citizens who do not apply in-time to upgrade from pre-settled status to settled status is a breach of the Withdrawal Agreement and the EEA EFTA Separation Agreement (the Agreements). These concerns have been raised with the Home Office since 6 August, but with no substantive response yet received the IMA feels it has no option but to escalate this issue to the pre-action stage of litigation.
In particular, the IMA is concerned that:
- EU citizens who hold pre-settled status must apply again to switch to settled status after five years’ continuous residence in the UK;
- That EU citizens face the automatic loss of rights should they fail to apply either for settled status or for further permission to remain in the UK. This means they could lose access to their rights to claim social housing, welfare benefits, and to healthcare which could have a potentially serious impact on their lives.
The IMA remains hopeful it can avoid going to court to resolve its concerns and has asked the Home Office to respond within 14 days.
The IMA was established to ensure public bodies uphold the rights of EU and EEA EFTA citizens living in the UK and Gibraltar and this letter is just one part of its ongoing work to ensure rights are being protected. Other work includes monitoring of welfare benefits, late applications, access to social housing and the process for securing National Insurance numbers and European Health Insurance Cards.
*The pre-action protocol explains the steps the courts would normally expect parties to take before taking legal action. A pre-action protocol letter is a legal letter written in order to try and resolve a dispute before court proceedings are commenced. It is sometimes also referred to as a ‘letter before claim’ or ‘letter before action’.