Immigration enforcement officers will issue a 28-day warning to EU citizens living in the UK to stay, the government says.
But the Interior Ministry will give people unlimited time to complete an application for permanent status if they have a reasonable excuse for delay. There is still one week to go until the application deadline.
About 5.6 million citizens of the European Economic Area (EEA) and their family members have applied for permanent status.
But there are about 400,000 cases open and the government helpline receives thousands of calls a day.
Following the 2016 Brexit referendum, which took place exactly five years ago, permanent status was introduced for EU and EEA citizens living in the UK. It allows them to maintain the same rights of residence, travel, work and access to health care and benefits.
The countries whose nationals have submitted the most applications are Poland (975,000) and Romania (918,000). Immigration Secretary Kevin Foster said anyone whose application is not completed by next week’s deadline will not lose as their rights are protected by law.
He added that immigration enforcement officials would begin issuing 28-day notices to people, advising them to apply for permanent status. Migrant groups had expressed concern that there would be children among those who had not applied.
But Foster said there would be an indefinite period when people who didn’t sign up would be allowed to do so, if they had reasonable grounds to do so. He gave the example of students who might discover on their first application to university that they have no fixed status.
‘Changed guidance’ Maike Bohn, co-founder of the EU citizens’ campaign group the3million, said: ‘It’s good that people can apply late, but the crux is that they are illegal because they haven’t applied.’ Those who qualify and failing to apply on time will become illegal and risk losing work, housing, access to free health care and much more.
” Mr Foster said existing benefit recipients would not stop their payments if they had not been given permanent status. But he He said no one in England could take up benefits, a job or a lease without a permanent status, and said the Home Office had changed guidelines for border officials after reports that some EU citizens had been detained for long periods at the border last month.
He told the House of Lords European Affairs Committee on Tuesday: “I want to get as many people through the door as possible by June 30. The EEA consists of the 27 EU countries plus Iceland, Liechtenstein and Norway.