Imagining the impossible? fears of deportation and the barriers to obtaining EU Settled Status in the UK
In early 2021, over 5 million European Union (EU) citizens had applied for settled status to secure their right to continue to live, work and study in the United Kingdom (UK) after the country’s withdrawal from the EU (Brexit). In 2018, the Home Office launched a Statement of Intent to implement an application process for EU citizens through its EU Settlement Scheme. In the period leading up to Brexit, the UK government assured EU migrants that their existing rights under EU law would remain essentially unchanged and that applying for settled status would be smooth, transparent and simple. However, the application process has resulted in some long-term residents failing to obtain settled status, despite providing the required information. Based on qualitative in-depth interviews with 20 EU migrants living in two major metropolitan areas in Northern England, this article discusses the significant barriers which EU citizens face in the application process. This situation particularly affects the most vulnerable EU migrants with limited English-language skills and/or low literacy levels as well as those who are digitally excluded. The study contributes to the growing body of research on the consequences of Brexit for vulnerable EU migrants in the UK, focusing specifically on Central and Eastern European migrants.