A 67-year-old British woman who planned to return to the UK with her 80-year-old French husband after 30 years abroad has claimed Home Office delays have left them waiting for almost a year for the paperwork they need to set foot in the country. Carmel and her husband, Louis, who asked for their real names to be changed, sold their house in France last year and packed up all their belongings having read that it would take 15 days to get a family permit.
They applied for the paperwork on April 22 but have been in limbo for 10 months, camping out with their children and unable to get on with their lives.
Carmel said: “We packed everything up. We sold the house. And it’s just non-communication from the Home Office.
“My husband went through a phase of being very depressed about the whole thing. He said: ‘What is the Home Office waiting for, for me to die?’ sort of thing.
“I think we’ve got to the point of disbelief. We are in this situation, but how are we in this situation?”
Carmel said they had had a very happy 30 years in France but wanted to return home.
She told The Guardian: “We feel like we are a victim of Brexit and there is nothing we can do about it. We are just waiting. We can’t get on with our lives.”
Carmel is one of the thousands of Britons living in the EU to be hit by post-Brexit changes within the bloc.
The campaign group British in Europe has written to four secretaries of state including Liz Truss, the foreign secretary, and Priti Patel, the home secretary, begging them to deliver on Conservative party promises that British citizens in the EU would not face an erosion of rights because of Brexit.
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It has urged the four cabinet members, who also include Thérèse Coffey, the work and pensions secretary, and Nadhim Zahawi, the education secretary, not to forget the 1.2 million British citizens in Europe and warn them of four potential risks they face.
These include ongoing issues for British citizens trying to return home and a call for them to extend a March 29 deadline for applications for those non-UK spouses to apply for settled status.
It also wants them to answer a request to issue a “clear statement that those family members who are entitled to enter the UK on a visitor permit will be able to do so in order to move physically to the UK” to make the application to remain under the EU settlement scheme.
In its valedictory letter, British in Europe tells the cabinet members that support for Britons is needed more than ever.
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It has urged Ms Truss and her colleagues to scrap the decision to cancel dedicated funding in embassies and consular posts to support British citizens in the EU and the European Economic Area, arguing that they need dedicated officers in post until at least the end of 2022.
It has also urged them to implement the seven-year grace period on home fees and student finance for children of British people living in Europe and to ensure that potential changes to the personal independence payments do not affect recipients in the EU.
The letter was sent before a meeting on Monday of UK and EU officials sitting on a Brexit specialised committee on citizens’ rights.
Declining to directly comment on the delay a Home Office spokesperson said: “Applications for EU settlement scheme (EUSS) family permits are decided as soon as possible, but waiting times can vary depending on the volume of applications received and the complexity of the case being considered.
“As a result, customers may experience a longer wait than usual for their decision on their EUSS family permit applications.”