Yesterday, I wrote to my local MP in desperation, for the first time on a personal matter. It concerns my foster son’s settled status (EUSS) application. He has lived in the UK for 29 years and worked for most of the time. His story shows that the government’s promise to EU citizens that they will retain the same rights after Brexit was misleading. I don’t want to call it a blatant lie, but it is not the truth either.
T came to join me in the UK in 1992 and has not even visited the country of his birth ever since. I don’t know if people who have never fostered or worked in children’s services can imagine the difficulties that sometimes children are born into.
How I met T
For six years, I worked as a child psychologist in a large psychiatric hospital for children and adolescents’ in Germany. I started in the assessment centre, where I had to do the testing of all new arrivals.
Soon I found that there was a backlog of cases who had been in hospital for a while without formal assessment. T was such a case and when I met him, I was struck by the news that he had been there for 2 years.
T’s childhood of abandonment
T’s childhood was characterised by rejection and abandonment. He was given up at birth, adopted as a 2 year old after several foster placements, but then abandoned again. I fostered him when he was seven.
He was a very lively, handsome young boy who sadly had not experienced the safety of a loving family. I won’t go into details, but suffice to say that his childhood memories are one of the reasons he decided 26 years ago that he wanted to change his name.
Sadly, a name change is very difficult in Germany. Luckily, in the UK a legal declaration signed by a solicitor, a deed poll, is sufficient for an official name change.
So, T changed his name and has used the new name ever since. He has a National Insurance Number, a bank account, several references from employers and former CRBs and a current DBS issued in that name.
His German passport, however, is in his other name. Up until now, that had caused no issues. Whenever he had to identify himself, he showed his passport with the deed poll which was accepted as proof of identity.
Settled status application
Last year T applied for his settled status. He received it without any delay. The online EUSS application does not supply EU citizens with proof of their status, but one merely receives an e-mail as confirmation. At the time, it had not bothered T that his EUSS was issued in the name which is in his passport.
The deed poll proved that he is the same person, and all employers and official bodies had accept this as legal proof.
Last week T’s employer asked him to send proof of his settled status. They possess a copy of his passport from when he first applied for a job there about three years ago. T forwarded the EUSS email.
Not settled after all?
Then T got a nasty shock. He was told by his manager that he had committed a fraudulent act and that he faces suspension without pay and a disciplinary hearing. He might even be at risk of losing his job.
We contacted the German Welfare Council who had helped T to get his EUSS. They were incredulous at the employer’s reaction and consulted a solicitor, who sent us the Home Office guidance:
“the reasons for any difference in names across documents can be explained by providing evidence (eg original marriage certificate, divorce decree absolute, deed poll). These supporting documents must also be photocopied and a copy retained.”
Additionally, they are not entitled to re-check EU citizen’s right to work unless it is done in a non-discriminatory way.
I wrote an email to T’s manager who has not responded but has told T that he has handed it to Vue Cinemas’ legal department. This is why I then decided to turn to @the3million.org.uk for advice.
The 3 million
They responded immediately, explaining that T’s position is not unique. They said:
“his issue is very similar to what we are seeing with women who have a difference between their maiden name (on their passport) and their married name (used on all the rest of their documentation). In several countries, including the Netherlands, France and Spain, the passport remains in the maiden name even if women use a married name. In some cases, the Dutch passports include a ‘spouse of’ field, but this does not make it onto the settled status system as it does not form part of the machine readable zone. These women similarly face the issue that they need to prove their marriage certificate as a linking proof between the two names.”
The 3million are lobbying the Home Office to find a solution to this unfair issue.
Catch 22 and possible suspension
In the meantime, T and I are in limbo. We face a catch 22: if T changes his name back to the one in his passport, all his documents he accumulated in the last 26 years become invalid. And will the bank accept a deed poll ‘undoing’ another deed poll?
He needs to start from scratch. If he does not change his name, he might lose his job and become unemployable. And most probably destitute.
Settled status EUSS deadline
The deadline for handing in applications for EU citizens to get settled status and thus stay in the UK is Wednesday 30th June. Several organisations have petitioned the government to extend this deadline.
Also, there have been numerous petitions and letters for the EUSS to be issued in hard copy. My brother who is a Brit in Vienna has received a little plastic card, like a drivers licence, which is an ID to show that he is resident in Austria. He has something tangible to give him the feeling of security that the country of his residence grants him permission to live there freely.
Hostile environment – another Windrush?
I ask myself: is the UK government hoping to encourage more EU citizens to leave this country with an ever-increasing hostile environment? If so, that is one aim they are succeeding with: T will try to sort out his EUSS issue with his employer, if possible. If not, he will have no other option but to leave the UK. But not everybody can simply pack up and leave.
I fear that with thousands of EU citizens in similar situations as T, this could well become another Windrush style scandal..