The UK Government has been urged to extend the deadline for the EU Settlement Scheme to prevent people from being “stripped of their rights overnight”.
It comes ahead of the deadline for the Home Office scheme on Wednesday at midnight.
EU citizens have been asked to apply for the scheme so that they can continue to live and work within the UK.
This includes people from the European Economic Area (EEA) countries of Iceland, Liechtenstein and Norway, as well as Switzerland.
Family members include non-EU nationals from those countries who are living with them in the UK.
Once granted status, applicants can use the NHS, study and access public funds and benefits, as well as travel in and out of the country.
They must, however, first prove their identity, show that they live in the UK and declare any criminal convictions.
People who are yet to apply effectively lose their lawful immigration status, which could prevent them getting a new job or moving house until this is confirmed under the scheme.
Individuals will be able to submit late applications if they miss the deadline and meet the ‘reasonable grounds’ for doing so.
For those who do not apply, immigration enforcement officers will be given powers to issue a 28-day notice to anyone they discover who may be eligible for the scheme but cannot prove their immigration status.
This will tell them to take urgent action to establish their lawful status by applying to the scheme.
The Home Office has said it will give people every chance to apply to the scheme, but if they continue to fail to apply, the department has confirmed they may be liable for enforcement action and will not be eligible for work, benefits or access to services like healthcare.
The SNP’s deputy Westminster leader Kirsten Oswald said that Prime Minister Boris Johnson must “wake up” to the risks posed by the “arbitrary” deadline set.
She said: “This is the Prime Minister’s last chance to prevent hundreds of thousands of EU nationals being stripped of their rights overnight, as well as a hammer blow to Scotland’s economy and NHS. I am urging him to take it and scrap the deadline.
“He must wake up to the reality that the arbitrary settled status deadline poses huge and unnecessary risks to livelihoods, given people could lose their right to work, rent, and access vital healthcare and benefits.
“And industries such as hospitality and farming, who are already struggling to recruit as a result of Brexit, could face further difficulties if people can’t prove their right to work.”
Scotland Office minister David Duguid urged eligible EU citizens, who have not already done so, to apply for EU settled status.
“I want EU citizens who have made the UK their home to be able to continue living and working here,” he said.
“The EU Settlement scheme has been hugely successful since its launch in March 2019.
“I have been concerned at reports that some may not have applied yet and so have been promoting the scheme heavily on my social media channels.
He added: “It is really important that eligible EU citizens that have not already done so, apply for the settled status they deserve.
“Applications are normally quick and easy and rights will be protected pending a decision for all applicants who apply by the deadline – even if that decision comes later.”
Labour’s shadow Scottish secretary Ian Murray said: “It is vital that European Union citizens across the country register for the settlement scheme today if they haven’t already.
“But with hundreds of thousands of applications still unprocessed and potentially many more yet to apply, the deadline must be extended beyond June 30.
“The intransigence of the government could mean EU citizens who live and work legally in this country fall foul of UK immigration laws because they missed the deadline for administrative reasons.
“The home secretary must reconsider and join European governments who have extended their deadline for UK nationals living in the European Union.”
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