The Home Office doing what it loves best: making people’s lives a misery

Priti Patel. Openverse

What kind of a country do we live in when, having stripped people of their freedom of movement, the Government sets further arbitrary deadlines that have the potential to devastate the lives of those most directly affected?

It’s not just EU nationals affected by these deadlines – it’s UK nationals too. Right now, if UK nationals living in EU countries decide to return, all family members who are non-UK nationals will have to apply for permits to join them by no later than 29 March.

Only once they’ve secured that permit and are in the UK can those family members then apply for the EU Settlement Scheme, to be allowed to stay in this country.

Those applying for family permits are waiting at least 12 weeks, and in some cases over a year – despite a commitment in the Withdrawal Agreement that, in such circumstances, visas should be issued by the host country “free of charge and on the basis of an accelerated procedure”

While they’re waiting, unless they pay extra, they have to give up their passports to the Home Office. There’s no chance of travelling anywhere else while they wait for a response.

People have been told that applications are being dealt with in strict date order. No deadline is given by the Home Office. No commitment to reply by a certain date. No targets or indicators by which the Home Office can measure its own performance.

As a letter (reproduced in full at the end of this article) from the3million to the Home Office highlights, these long delays have a very real effect on people’s lives.

While they wait for the Home Office to respond, they may find themselves without a job, without rented accommodation, or forced to separate, sometimes from their own children.

You’d think that, having removed freedom of movement, ministers would go all out to deliver a proper service to the millions whose lives are directly affected. You’d think they’d commit to seeing applications were processed swiftly.

You’d think that ministers would commit to a responsive customer service. You’d think they’d resolve to err on the side of empathy and compassion.

You’d think that, when ministers set an arbitrary deadline, they’d match it with resources to cope with the inevitable spike in demand.

You’d think all that but you’d be wrong. If the Government had set out to make people as anxious as possible, it couldn’t have done a better job of it.

Many UK nationals will come back now, forced into a decision by an arbitrary, unnecessary deadline. Under the rights they’ve had stolen, they might have delayed that decision until later. But if they don’t come now, they will lose the right to bring their families in the future.

Others who might one day have come back now won’t. But they may one day find themselves, say, forced to choose between coming home to care for elderly or sick parents, or staying put in their new country of residence because they want to be with their partners and children.

The Government likes to think it’s been generous with this deadline. Far from it. Why have a deadline at all? None of us can know how our futures will look. It’s callous of ministers to force people to make these choices now.

This is just one category of those affected by the loss of freedom of movement. But let’s not forget all the others. I recently wrote about the vast numbers of EU nationals still to receive any form of status from the Home Office.

It told a story of lives turned upside down, of constant stress, even of high levels of homelessness. And the picture hasn’t improved – it’s got worse, as this thread by the3million explains.

It’s so easy to allow things to be normalised, especially after six years of all this madness. But we mustn’t do that.

This is ministers’ responsibility. This is the responsibility of Boris Johnson, Priti Patel, Kevin Foster and Number 10.

Having so disrupted people’s lives by removing their freedom of movement, they have a moral responsibility to minimise any further damage. We should keep reminding them of that until they do the right thing by every person they have wronged. It’s the least we should expect.

In the meantime, please sign this petition from the3million calling for a national document checking service, to prevent loss in the post, and to prevent people from being forced to part from their passports. It would be one small way to relieve anxiety.

Originally tweeted by Richard Haviland (@rfhaviland) on 10/02/2022.

The letter to Kevin Foster in full:

Kevin Foster MP, Minister for Future Borders and Immigration
Home Office SUG team
Citizens’ Rights and Mobility Unit, Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office

Dear Kevin Foster MP,

Delays to Certificates of Application and EUSS Family Permits

We are writing to express our ongoing concerns regarding delays within the EU Settlement Scheme.
As you will be aware, we compiled a report to the Independent Monitoring Authority in November
2021 ( focusing exclusively on the extent and
impact of these delays, and to demonstrate that these delays are occurring at every component
stage of people’s journey to acquiring the status they are eligible for.
Delays to Certificates of Application (CoAs)

In correspondence between the3million and the Home Office, we have been told that these delays
only happen when:
● people make paper applications;
● someone is required to post their identity document to the Home Office for verification; or
● a non-EEA national family member needs to make a biometric enrolment appointment
The same letter also states “For those using the Identity Verification (IDV) app, validation of identity
and taking of facial image biometrics happens during the online application process, and a CoA is
issued automatically once the application is submitted.”

On Monday 24 January we attended the meeting of the Specialised Committee on Citizens’ Rights,
and we raised there the issue of ongoing delays to Certificates of Application. We made two main

  1. We do not accept that biometric appointments are a valid prerequisite for issuing CoAs
  2. We see delays to CoAs being issued even when people make straightforward digital

    The Home Office representative replied on the former point that biometrics were essential
    prerequisites to combat spurious EUSS applications, and on the latter that straightforward digital
    applications result in automatic CoAs. We agreed to send on some examples, with UAN references,
    to demonstrate that this was not the case, and we have done so in separate confidential

    We would now like to ask the following questions:

    Q1. Article 18(1)(b) of the Withdrawal Agreement states: “A certificate of application for the
    residence status shall be issued immediately;”.
    How is the current Home Office process to delay the issuing of CoAs compatible with this statement:
    a. for EEA/Swiss applicants who apply with a valid identity document using the “EU
    Exit: ID Document Check” app, completed with an online application, without having
    been asked for any subsequent identity information?
    b. for non-(EEA/Swiss) applicants who apply with a valid identity document using the
    “EU Exit: ID Document Check” app, completed with an online application, who are
    asked to make an appointment to provide biometric information, also bearing in
    mind that it can be months before any free appointments are available?
    c. for applicants who are unable to use the “EU Exit: ID Document Check” app because
    they are for example the family member of a Lounes EEA-British dual citizen?

    Q2. We do not accept that these delays are necessary due to spurious/speculative/fraudulent
    applications, as indicated by the Home Office representative at the Specialised Committee
    on Citizens’ Rights meeting on 24th January. Indeed, it is unclear on what basis this would
    influence a decision not to issue certificates immediately after an application has been

    Could you provide insight into the numbers of cases identified as being
    spurious/speculative/fraudulent and why this has influenced the Home Office’s decision not
    to issue certificates immediately?

    Delays to EUSS Family Permits
    We have had a large number of reports of people waiting an extremely long time for EUSS Family
    Permits, most in excess of 12 weeks up to over a year at the time of reporting to us. We have also
    seen reports of long delays to EUSS Travel Permits for those stuck abroad with a lost, stolen or
    expired BRC (see the separate letter we wrote to you on 6 January 2022).

    Many of these people have told us that when they tried to get an update on their situation via the
    resolution centre or paid for communication services provided by Home Office partners, they were
    informed that applications are done in strict date order, and that they need to be patient. We have
    seen a letter from the Home Office to an MP confirming this:

    “As previously advised, there is currently no service standards for deciding EUSS applications.
    Applicants are advised that they will get a decision as soon as possible.
    Further information can be found at:
    The Home Office appreciates that the delay is frustrating to […] and her family, but it is
    currently receiving a high volume of applications and all cases are being dealt with in strict
    4 February 2022 Page 3 of 5
    date order. Please reassure […] and her family that their applications will be concluded as
    soon as possible.”

    The Government’s web page on ‘Visa decision waiting times’ (link as above) states that for other
    family reunion visa applications, people should get a decision within twelve weeks. However, for EEA
    or EUSS family permits there is no service standard, and the page merely states:

    “If you are applying for an EEA family permit or an EUSS family permit you will get a decision
    as soon as possible after proving your identity and providing your documents.”

    As you will of course be aware, there are broadly two groups of people applying for EUSS Family
  3. family members of EU citizens (or eligible person of Northern Ireland) resident in the UK
    before 31 December 2020, or ‘joining family members’; and
  4. family members of returning British citizens, or ‘Surinder Singh applicants’
    Article 14(3) of the Withdrawal Agreement states:
    “Where the host State requires family members who join the Union citizen or United
    Kingdom national after the end of the transition period to have an entry visa, the host State
    shall grant such persons every facility to obtain the necessary visas. Such visas shall be
    issued free of charge as soon as possible, and on the basis of an accelerated procedure.”

    The delays we are seeing are not compatible with an accelerated procedure.
    Surinder Singh applicants are affected by a domestic deadline set by the UK Government, namely
    they have until 29 March 2022 to return to the UK and apply for status under the EU Settlement
    Scheme. This date is less than eight weeks from now.

    We have seen correspondence from the Home Office that says: “If they applied by that deadline for
    the EUSS family permit, they will have reasonable grounds for applying late to the EUSS if they were
    issued the family permit after 29 March 2022 and so returned to the UK after that date.”

    However, the impact on families from both groups facing extended delays is serious. This impact is
    made worse by the fact that people have to make concrete life decisions based on expected
    processing times, and many were told at the time of their application that their Family Permit should
    be issued within 15 working days.

    As an example, one respondent told us:

    “When I did the biometrics in September, I was told it would take 15 working days. In the
    meantime they kept my passport. We planned to move just before Christmas, thinking
    everything would be fine then.
    In November I got a confirmation email from UKVI, saying my application is prepared for
    decision making. I assumed it would take maybe a few days after this.
    In early December I tried calling all the phone numbers on the Gov.UK website but kept
    getting an automated message saying “Thank you for your call, goodbye”. A few days later I
    finally got through and was told the standard processing time is 12 weeks! I went back to the
    Visa centre and there were now notes up everywhere saying it will take longer and they
    cannot give estimates.

    I could “buy” (!) my own passport so that I could travel to the UK to at least celebrate the
    holidays with my partner’s family. I did that and also emailed Gov.UK to escalate my case,
    since it had been 12 weeks. I was told that it would take 15 working days from being
    escalated but I still have not received my decision.
    In January I called again and was told that an escalated case cannot be escalated again, and
    also that since other people are also requesting escalation of their case, I had to wait my
    My partner and I both quit our jobs in December. So we don’t have income at the moment.
    We did go to the UK before the holidays. I have a return ticket booked, because I am here as
    a tourist.
    But we only booked an Airbnb for a month, so we could find a rental in that time. We have
    found a rental flat, but we have to pay 6 months up front
    , because we don’t have an credit or
    previous landlord references.
    But I cannot be a tenant, because I don’t have the right to live here. I will have to go back
    without my partner at some point. So we will be separated, who knows for how long.
    This whole situation is making us very stressed. I have actually gotten acne again and have
    developed a skin condition on my scalp. I’m 100% sure it’s from the stress.
    I am very stressed about the fact that I’m not going to make the deadline of 29-03-2022 to
    move to the UK.
    In the meantime I have no income. There is no point looking for a job in [my country of
    origin], because by the time I find something, I will have to move.
    I also feel like I’m not taken seriously. It’s like they don’t realize people’s lives are on hold and
    they are separated from loved ones. It’s not like you make the decision to move countries
    And there are deadlines for applications and moving, but the government doesn’t have to
    stick to any deadlines?!”

    We have received many similar reports, often including young children and families separated. In
    one such case the children received a Family Permit while their mother was still waiting six months
    later, when the children’s permits had expired.

    We ask the following questions:

    Q3. How can a lack of service standards for EUSS Family Permits, and regular reports of decision
    times of over twelve weeks, be considered compatible with “an accelerated procedure” as
    specified in Article 13(4) of the Withdrawal Agreement?

    Q4. The current EUSS Family Permit and Travel Permit statistics available at provide only quarterly data, not
    broken down between types of application including those relying on being the family
    member of a relevant EEA citizen and those relying on being the family member of a
    qualifying British citizen, and do not provide any information on processing times. Can you
    therefore provide us with the following data for the most recent 12 months available,
    broken down by month and type of application?
  • Number of EUSS Family Permit and EUSS Travel Permit applications
  • Number of EUSS Family Permit and EUSS Travel Permit decisions, broken down by
    decision type
  • Average processing time of EUSS Family Permit and EUSS Travel Permit applications

    Q5. Will the Home Office extend the 29 March 2022 deadline for Surinder Singh EUSS
    applications given the fact that all EUSS Family Permits are processed in strict date order (i.e.
    both those family permit applications relating to applicants subject to the deadline in eight
    weeks’ time, and those that are not) and given that the Home Office has acknowledged that
    there are long delays resulting from a high volume of applications?

    Kind regards,
    Monique Hawkins
    Policy and Research Officer, the3million