Julia’s Story | "The Government can’t ignore the rights of EU citizens’ family members"

Updated: Feb 28

Julia is a volunteer with the3million, campaigning for the rights of EU citizens and their family members. She is Colombian, in a civil partnership with a French citizen, and is passionate about people having access to accurate information to make informed decisions when exercising their rights.

“I’ve been living in the UK for 12 years, under different immigration routes. I followed a very natural progression under the Tier based system: Student, Post Study, Work. Then when I formed a family unit with my partner, I was eligible for the EEA route, and switched. In that process, I did a lot of research, actively participating in online forums and groups, getting information. I acquired a really good knowledge of how things worked and noticed it was the same questions coming up again and again, and realised I was good at pointing people in the right direction.

I suppose my experience is similar to many other family members of EU citizens. When I first applied to qualify for the family member route, before Brexit, it took 5 months to get my residence card. It was an endurance test.

After Brexit, when the new EU Settlement Scheme came in, I did the same. My partner and I applied to EUSS on the same day. He got Settled Status 2 days later. For me, it was again 5 months before I would get a response. No reasons given.

It also struck me that the guidance was not clear enough for family members of EU nationals, who are not EU citizens themselves. All instructions assume the reader is a EU citizen, and very often do not describe non-EU citizens’ situations. Family member-specific advice is well buried and not straightforward to find. Some simple changes in language would make a world of difference for people to be accurately and easily informed.

Hearing people’s stories of struggles to get the right advice has led me to join the3million. I was really frustrated, knowing that on my own I was not able to make much of a difference. As a volunteer and part of the team, I can contribute to a larger source of accurate and accessible information for those who need it. It really shouldn’t be this hard for people to navigate this system and access their rights.

Like many of us, I didn’t have an active interest in politics before Brexit. It is in the aftermath of this vote that I realised how important it is to get involved and follow what’s happening. I have lived in this country for years, being employed, paying my taxes, yet as a non-EU, non-UK, non-Commonwealth citizen, I have never had a right to vote in any elections.

the3million’s campaign for residency based voting rights for all migrants is very dear to me. I am applying for British Citizenship and thus will hopefully soon have the right to vote anyway, but if something like this had been raised 10 years ago, it would have made a huge difference for my past self, for the woman I was 10 years ago, to be able to have a say in the country she’s called home. I want to see that change now, for communities which historically haven’t had these rights.

My hope for the future is that this hard experience of Brexit has the silver lining that one day all immigrants, EU or not, might have a say in what happens in the country they call home and where they have contributed economically, intellectually, culturally, and in many other ways.

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