‘I feel a third-rate citizen’, says woman waiting months for residency decision

A woman who has been waiting more than four months for her EU Settlement Scheme (EUSS) application to be processed has described her experience as “incredibly frustrating” and said she feels like a third-rate citizen.

Daria Riabchikova applied for pre-settled status in mid-February as the partner of an EU citizen living in the UK, and despite dozens of phone calls to the Home Office helpline says she has not been given a reason for the delay.

The 30-year-old, originally from Russia, said the process has put her in an “infantilising” position where she is waiting with “no answers and no power and no say”.

Ms Riabchikova, who moved to London with her Belgian partner in June 2019, is about to start a new job in publishing and is worried in case her outstanding application jeopardises the role.

And she is worried that she may not be let back into the country if she leaves to visit her family, who she has not seen for two years.

She told the PA news agency: “When I moved to the UK I was really pleased with how quickly I was able to integrate, how quickly I was able to find a job, set everything up, immediately start just living and not waiting for my paperwork to be processed.

“And now with Brexit and the pandemic, that’s all gone out of the window. Now it seems like the system is slower and less responsive than anywhere else I had experience with, slower than in Belgium or Germany or even Russia.

“So of course this is really one of the main draws for me, that the UK is such an open society, and to feel like that’s slipping away or like that’s changing in front of my eyes, that’s really disappointing, and that doesn’t make me feel welcome.

“I don’t even feel like a second-rate citizen – I feel like a third-rate citizen, despite working here and paying taxes with my partner and living here, and contributing to the past year of struggle with the pandemic, sacrificing seeing my family… we stayed at home, we wore masks everywhere, all these things just to help the NHS, help the Government with their response to this pandemic, and now I can’t even have my straightforward application processed on time.”

Ms Riabchikova said it is “crazy” that some people have been waiting more than a year for their applications to be processed.

She said there are many people in a more precarious position than her who could struggle a lot more if they face delays or apply after the deadline.

“I just hope the Home Office will make sure these people don’t suffer unnecessarily,” she said.

“It’s strange that I’m supposed to be OK with… having this very muddy situation around my rights, because the Home Office is not prepared to provide a service that they have committed to.”

The Home Office confirmed Ms Riabchikova’s application was being processed by caseworkers and said that, as the deadline approaches, outstanding cases are increasingly complex and there has been a surge in calls to the helpline.

Copyright (c) PA Media Ltd. 2021, All Rights Reserved. Picture – Part of a campaign for social justice for EU citizens (c) Stefan Rousseau / PA.