A Scottish Government plea for the deadline to be extended for applications from European citizens wishing to remain in the UK post-Brexit has been rejected by Westminster.
Immigration minister Kevin Foster was clear that the UK Government would “not be extending the deadline” of June 30 for those wishing to apply for settled status.
He pointed out that the scheme – which he hailed as a “genuine success” – has been open for applications since 2019, with EU nationals having been given “the time to apply”.
More than 5.6 million applications have been made to date under the scheme – including more than 276,000 from EU nationals living in Scotland.
Mr Foster said: “I want to be clear, we will not be extending the deadline.
“Put simply, extending the deadline is not the solution to reaching those people who have not yet applied, and we would just be in a position further down the line where we would be asked to extend again, creating more uncertainties.”
His comments came after Jenny Gilruth, the Europe minister within the Scottish Government, said a “backlog” of applications to the scheme was “deeply concerning”.
Ms Gilruth complained that “hundreds of thousands of applications – many of which will very likely be from our fellow citizens who wish to stay in Scotland – have yet to be processed by the Home Office”.
She stated: “It is just wrong that EU citizens who fail to apply by the deadline will suddenly become unlawfully resident in the UK.
“So the UK Government should make the common sense decision to extend the deadline, clear the backlog – and reform the scheme.”
Mr Foster stressed anyone who applies by next week’s deadline will “have their rights protected until the conclusion of their application by law”.
He added: “Our message very much is for people not to delay, and apply as soon as they can.”
While he said that the “high number of applications” meant there were cases still being determined, the minister stressed that people who apply by June 30 “will have their existing rights protected pending the outcome of their application”.
The minister continued: “To ensure there is no loss of rights whilst applications are pending a decision, we are issuing a Certificate of Application to those who submit a valid application by June 30 which they will be able to rely on as proof to access their right to work or rent, when verified by the relevant Home Office checking service.
“They will also be able to enter the UK as a resident and continue to receive benefits and healthcare: essentially, nothing will change for them until their application is concluded.”
He also said people would be able to make late applications to the scheme beyond the June 30 cut-off date, provided there were “reasonable grounds” for this.