Yesterday we wrote to the Home Office to enquire about how EU citizens will evidence their right to reside in the UK at borders and airport gates when returning from abroad after the end of the transition period.


First published in February 2020.


The letter was sent jointly to:

- Kevin Foster MP, Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Immigration

- Priti Patel MP, Secretary of State for the Home Department

- Yvette Cooper MP, Chair of the Home Affairs Committee

- Hilary Benn MP, Chair of the Exiting the European Union Committee.




Dear Kevin Foster MP,

I am writing to you as chair of the3million, the largest campaign organisation for EU27 citizens in the UK. We are wanting to publish some helpful summary information on our website about EU citizens and their family members travelling to the EU, and travelling to the UK from abroad, after Brexit.

There is one area in particular in which we have some uncertainty, and this concerns EU citizens travelling into the UK after the end of the transition period, i.e. from 1st January 2021. We would like to have more information about what happens in the foreign country before EU citizens board their flight, ship or train to the UK.

We have already heard anecdotal reports of EU citizens being asked for physical proof of residence when attempting to board a flight. For example, one Dutch citizen with settled status under the EU Settlement Scheme was recently trying to return from Tokyo to the UK with an American airline. They were repeatedly asked for physical proof of permanent residence. Eventually after 45 minutes and bringing up the Home Office website on their laptop they were able to convince two senior airline staff to allow them to board.

Another one of our EU citizen members reported that when boarding a flight from South America to the UK, they were informed at the check-in desk that once ‘freedom of movement’ ends in the UK, any EU citizens will be treated in the same way as non-EU visa free nationals. They were told that therefore such EU citizens would in the future need to either present a ticket out of the UK within 6 months, or provide proof of legal residence in the UK.

Our impression is that this is a misunderstanding on behalf of that check-in desk attendant, as we assume that such an EU citizen will not be able to provide proof of legal residence in the UK. Our assumption is based both on the fact that (pre-) settled status for EU citizens is digital only, and the presumption that check-in desks and passport controls around the world will not all have access to the UK’s settled status database.

We also take note of the Government’s guidance on Passenger documents which states that carriers are liable to a £2,000 charge for each ‘inadequately documented arrival’. The Immigration and Asylum Act 1999, Section 40 makes clear that this charge relates to individuals who fail to produce “an immigration document which is in force and which satisfactorily establishes his identity and his nationality or citizenship”. The Charging Procedures Guide for Carriers on Section 40 states in paragraph 1.3 that “Section 40 charges do not apply to persons who are British Citizens, or other nationals of the European Economic Area, or Switzerland”.

In order for us to give the correct information to our members, would you be able to confirm whether:

1) The current exemption for EEA/Swiss nationals from Section 40 charges will continue even after a repeal of free movement in the UK, and that check-in desks / passport controls around the world will all be informed that EU citizens should continue to be allowed to board flights, ships and trains to the UK without having to provide proof of legal residence in the UK; or

2) The current exemption for EEA/Swiss nationals from Section 40 charges will be revoked after a repeal of free movement in the UK, in which case, is it the case that:

a) Check-in desks / passport controls around the world will have access to the UK’s settlement scheme database such that they can check whether citizens have legal residence in the UK; or

b) EU citizens will have to prove to the check-in desk / passport control that they have legal residence in the UK, and if so how? Would they be required for example to use a smartphone or laptop to log into their (pre-) settled status and show the result to the relevant officer?

We would be grateful for your earliest reply.


Yours sincerely,

Nicolas Hatton,
chair of the3million.

 

Did you know the3million is the leading non-profit organisation of EU citizens in the UK? If you can help their campaign to continue, you can:


 






[This piece was first published as a letter and turned into the above article on 14 February 2020, with the author’s consent, with the purpose of reaching a larger audience. | The author of the letter writes in a personal capacity.]

(Cover: Screenshot from a Home Office video.)



     

THE AUTHOR

Author image

the3million is the largest group of EU citizens in the UK, with a team of 50-ish active volunteers working on advocacy, policy, legal, media, social media, grassroots and events.