Two children who were born in London to an EU couple have been told they can stay in the country after all. The news comes a week after they were told by the Home Office that their application for permanent residency cards was refused.
Officials performed a swift U-turn on their botched decision after a Guardian report on 13 April on the childrens’ plight went viral.
Monica Obiols and her husband, Jan-Dinant Schreuder, told how they came home from work on Friday to find two permanent residency cards for the children in the post.
“It was brilliant coming home to this, it is a weight off our shoulders,” said Schreuder.
Officials acted immediately after Spanish-born Obiols told of her devastation that she had been granted a permanent residency card but her application for her 15-year-old son and 12-year-old daughter had been refused.
Schreuder, a 49-year-old school teacher, has lived in London since he was three, while Obiols, also 49 and a special needs teacher, has lived in the capital all her adult life.
But they found themselves in a “bureaucratic nightmare” after Britain’s decision to exit the EU.
Like many other EU citizens, Schreuder and Obiols said they panicked after the referendum and decided that a permanent residency card was the only way of providing proof of legal residence to a future employer or other official if no deal was done for EU citizens on day Britain officially leaves the bloc.
She said she was shocked when she received notification that her application was successful but that the children’s were refused, on the grounds that not enough evidence was provided to prove they lived with their parents.
Obiols was also upset that the Home Office did not alert her to an issue during the entire six months it took to process her application.
But it acted immediately when the Guardian story appeared. Within eight days the children received their cards.
Schreuder said: “The Home Office were very polite and apologetic. They called here first to get Monica, and I told them she wasn’t here. They said they would call her on her mobile. Then they phoned back to tell me that everything would be OK because they thought I would be alarmed, they acted like normal human beings,.”
Their experience is the latest of many reported by the Guardian illustrating how the referendum is causing emotional havoc for families across the country.
EU citizens and their children are legally entitled to live in Britain under EU law and under no obligation to apply for permanent residency cards, which were designed for non-EU residents who come to Britain under entirely different, and stricter, immigration laws.
Last week the president of the European parliament, Antonio Tajani, urged Theresa May to seal an early deal on guaranteeing EU citizens’ rights post-Brexit.
However, this does not address the anxiety being experienced by EU citizens who have no chance of obtaining proof of residency because there is no ID system in the UK for either nationals or non-nationals.
Campaigners say the stress of applying for permanent residency could be removed at a stroke by the government if it created a simple bespoke system for the estimated 3 million EU citizens who are already settled in the UK. Some have suggested a short form could be processed by local councils in place of the current 85-page one.
“I am happy it’s all over and we don’t have to reapply,” said Obiols. “I just hope it’s going to be like this for other people and it is not just because we were in the Guardian.”
Campaigners and critics, including MPs and peers, have condemned the 85-page form as not fit for purpose and have called on the government to urgently introduce a separate, simple process for EU citizens.
The Home Office official told Obiols she just needed to send in school reports for the two children, something she said was not stated on the application form. “It was me who was applying for PR with the children coming with me, they weren’t applying themselves. It wasn’t clear. It’s not that I can’t speak good English, I do, but these forms are not clear.