“London is open, today and always.” This message, shown across the Underground network last year, welcomed me when I arrived in this wonderful city — epitomising the very spirit of London: inclusiveness.
London is well known for being one of the most vibrant, multi-cultural and dynamic cities in the world — attracting people of all backgrounds, from across the EU. According to some estimates, London is home to over a million EU citizens — including students, entrepreneurs, engineers, people working in construction, hospitality and the NHS. The list is long.
While London’s inclusiveness has not diminished, for Europeans living here some things have changed. The UK is no longer part of the EU, freedom of movement has ended. EU nationals who have been living in London, or the UK, since before December 31, 2020 and who want to remain part of the future of this city, must apply for the EU Settlement Scheme. The application deadline — June 30 — is fast approaching.
The scheme gives EU citizens the right to remain in the UK legally and ensures that they can continue to work, study, vote and obtain free medical care and social benefits. It is crucial to understand that applying late may lead to the temporary loss of these rights — not applying at all will lead to their permanent loss. The application is simple and free of charge.
Over five million people across the UK have already done this, which is great. But not everyone is aware. Young or old, no matter how long you have been in this country, you need to apply before the deadline.
For many, due to reasons of language or lack of familiarity with the internet, the only way to hear about this scheme is by word of mouth. So please: spread the word. Check with your friends and family, they have less than 30 days to apply.
London never stands still, it always adapts — I am excited about the next chapter for this great, inclusive city, and for the part the Europeans who call it home will play.
João Vale de Almeida is the EU’s ambassador to the UK