- in Environment
EU citizens in Wales are behind the rest of the UK in applying to stay after Brexit, official figures show.
About 63% of EU citizens thought to be living in Wales have applied to remain here, compared to 84% in England.
The figures are published by the House of Commons Library.
The Home Office said applications were “free” and “straightforward” and people had until the end of June 2021 to apply.
EU nationals who have been in the UK for less than five years can be given pre-settled status.
Those who have been here for more than five years can apply for settled status, so long as they can prove they have lived in the UK continuously.
But Wales’ Brexit Minister Jeremy Miles has said there is a “seemingly high proportion of people being granted pre-settled rather than settled status”.
Environment ‘History gap’
Romain Sacré, 30, moved to Wales from France in 2013 and has studied and worked in the country since.
At the end of last year he married a Welsh woman and now wants to start a family.
But he said he was given pre-settled status when he applied, despite having been in Wales longer than the five years needed to qualify for settled status.
“It is really stressful, there is a potential gap in my history in Britain when I’ve been living here all that time, been studying, been working, been paying my taxes,” he said.
Latvian national Evija Upeniece, 52, spent eight months applying and re-applying for settled status before being granted it earlier this month.
She has lived in Wales since 2005 but was also initially granted pre-settled status, she runs a cafe in Milford Haven with her partner Mark Woodward, who helped her appeal the decision.
He described the process as “demoralising”.
“You’re constantly thinking: ‘Will this piece of paper suffice? Will they want more afterwards?’ and it’s that constant uncertainty that you don’t know and that’s what creates the stress,” Mr Woodward added.
The charity Settled, which helps EU nationals in the UK apply for settled status, has urged people who feel they are entitled to full settled status but who have been granted pre-settled status to appeal the decision by providing more documentation.
They said pre-settled status was a “lesser status” with “various restrictions” including not being able to leave the country for more than six months.
A Home Office spokesman said: “No-one has been granted pre-settled status without first being offered the opportunity to submit evidence that they qualify for settled status.”
But an immigration lawyer said it was often a struggle to find evidence acceptable to the Home Office when helping EU nationals apply for settled status.
Hillary Brown said legal representatives fear there may be a hostile environment towards EU nationals, similar to that of the Windrush generation.
She said: “We have lots of clients who’ve come and done seasonal work, clients who’ve come and done low paid work where the pay is not even enough to pay tax and national insurance.
“We’ve had people come to the United Kingdom to join partners where they’ve had no work and they’ve not claimed any benefits or they’ve not gone into education or there’s not been an audit paper trail of what they’ve been doing so they’re going to find it very difficult to prove that they’re here in the United Kingdom for whatever period of time.”
The Home Office said applicants needed to prove their identity, show that that they live in the UK and declare any criminal convictions, and said staff would help people to provide evidence.
Watch the full report on Wales Live on BBC One Wales on Wednesday 29 January at 22:30 GMT or on the BBC iPlayer.