STRATFORD-UPON-AVON, RAW – Amid the insecurity of what will happen after Brexit, tens of thousands of European nationals are struggling – and often failing – to negotiate the bureaucracy that decides whether they can stay in Britain after it leaves the European Union.
From completing the 85-page application form to producing an average of 7 kilos of supporting documents from tax returns to details of their movements over the last five years, as well as handing over their passports to the authorities for months, it’s proving a difficult and expensive task.
Government figures show applications for permanent residency have soared since last year’s EU referendum, with the numbers six times higher in the last quarter of 2016 than a year earlier.
But 12,800, or more than 28 per cent, of those submitted in the last three months of 2016 were rejected or declared invalid.
One was Dieter Wolke, 59, a German who is professor of psychology at the University of Warwick in central England.
‘I had to give every date I had left the UK, when I had come back, and because I have to travel for business a lot, there were a lot of trips where I had to go through diaries and find out exactly the actual date,’ he explained.
The real problem was that he had to hand in his passport, something he said was impossible as he was involved in EU projects and studies in the United States.
So last October he used a lawyer-certified copy of his passport.
In January, he was rejected because he had not submitted his passport.
The Home Office said there was clear guidance on what evidence was required and the “onus is on the individual to submit it”.
Campaigners and politicians, including ardent Brexit supporters, say Britain should unilaterally guarantee that those who have been living and working in the UK can stay when the formal departure from the bloc is completed, probably in 2019.
But Prime Minister Theresa May has ruled out giving the three million EU nationals living here any guarantees until a reciprocal deal is agreed for Britons living in the EU.
Applications can take six months to be completed.
Hilary Benn, chairman of parliament’s Brexit committee, said the system was not fit for purpose and it would take the equivalent of 140 years for all applicants to be processed. It’s not just the bureaucracy.
Lawyers are charging as much STG2,000 ($A3,209) for help and criminals were exploiting some vulnerable people.