With the EU Settlement Scheme deadline looming for families of British citizens returning to the UK, the Home Office has confirmed their internal processing delays will not affect those whose applications for family permits have been submitted by 29 March 2022.
We have been alarmed by the increasing waiting times for family permits, which allow family members join their sponsors in the UK. As a result, we see lives put on hold, families being separated for many months and worry and frustration for those involved. The Home Office does not have a service standard for these applications; they cannot be expedited, and in some occasions are refused on technicalities. However, their well-publicised policy of flexibility does not seem to apply to those living overseas.
On top of this, family members of British citizens returning to the UK will need to apply for pre-settled status by 29 March 2022. Those family members who are non-visa nationals may return to the UK and apply in the country, even being in the UK with visitor status, after the latest changes in Appendix EU. For those not so fortunate, who require pre-approved permission to enter the UK, they will have to apply for a family permit first.
The undetermined waiting time for the processing of family permits means that even if the applicant had taken the precaution of applying well within the deadline, a Home Office delay may eventually render them ineligible to apply for pre-settled status. Through no fault of their own, they would then have to rely on the much more expensive and demanding route of a family visa under Appendix FM.
The Home Office has now confirmed that those who submit family permit applications by 29 March 2022 will have a reasonable excuse for a later EUSS application, regardless of when they are approved. Unfortunately, for those applications that are refused, an appeal will be the only way forward, as they will be out of time to submit a fresh application correcting the reasons for refusal.
Another example of how these self-imposed deadlines are adding difficulties, distress and much heartache to those whose rights were supposed to be protected by the Withdrawal Agreement.
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The confirmation will come as a relief to British citizens suffering anxiety and distress over Home Office delays because of the looming 29 March deadline to apply for the EU settlement scheme (EUSS).