Monique Hawkins has lived in the UK for 24 years, and while marrying a Briton does not automatically confer UK citizenship under current rules, she hitherto failed to seek a British passport as it does not offer benefits beyond her current rights as an EU citizen. However, she rushed to apply following the June 23 referendum, fearing those rights would be diminished, or outright abrogated, once Britain left the EU.
The story of Monique Hawkins highlights the practical difficulties faced by millions of EU citizens in Britain 3/4 https://t.co/n0GEfXS70X— Dr Charlotte Beyer (@beyer_char) December 28, 2016
After months of waiting, the UK Home Office responded to the Surrey resident's 'permanent residency' application by informing her to immediately "make arrangements to leave."
The application form itself runs 85-pages, and includes a requirement to list every occasion the applicant has been absent from the UK in the time they have lived there, and the reasons for it.
When Hawkins telephoned the Home Office to appeal the decision, she was told the case could only be discussed in person. Moreover, she could not discuss the case with anyone.
"I do not believe there is any other business, organization or even legal process in the world that would treat its customers/clients/applicants in this manner," she is reported to have said.
"I am now left totally in limbo. I do not know whether my application will be reopened or not."
Despite the bureaucratic nightmare she is now embroiled in, Hawkins says she still feels the UK is the only place she can call home, despite having lived in several countries in her youth — while Hawkins previously felt she had no roots, the UK is the first country in which she's been able to lay any.
Stories like that of Monique Hawkins won't convince EU nationals living in the #uk to apply for British nationality; it shows broken system— Dr. Roy Schestowitz (@schestowitz) December 28, 2016
"I had a massive shock following the referendum. I felt very stressed and suddenly felt walking down the street that the place didn't want me any more. That feeling began to subside, but I thought I should apply for citizenship."
Several citizens of EU countries that live, study and work in the UK have told Sputnik they are now concerned about their own status.
Lisa R., a French university student who has lived in the UK for 16 years, says that irrespective of her birthplace, the UK is and will always be home — a home in which she has paid taxes for quite some time.
"Being asked to leave the country has been a constant worry in the back of my head since June 23, if not before — it was a real blow when permanent residents weren't given the right to vote in the referendum. You could be a student on a gap year and vote, but an EU citizen who's lived here their whole life and couldn't," Lisa told Sputnik.
"Exacerbating things is the government clearly having no idea what to do. There's talk of a cut-off point for naturalization applications, but no one knows what they're doing, and that means I and other permanent residents don't know how to proceed. Even if they decide EU permanent residents can stay, there'll be no guarantees for things like NHS treatment and the like and that's even more worrying. Paying thousands for citizenship isn't really something I want to do "just in case", so the uncertainty is actually worse than being straight up told to get it or leave," she added.
Lisa's anxieties are echoed by Barta N., a Czech trading systems developer who has resided in London for three years, and feels closer to Britons than he does his fellow countrymen:
"When I visit the Czech Republic, I just consider it to be where my roots are.
"I've never felt as at home as I do in London. Given my profession, if I am forced to leave, then companies I work for will go as well. Companies willing to perform need to be able to hire the best talents, from UK and abroad. What worries me is I've made very good friends here that I would be very sad to leave behind. I would miss the English in general too, even the ones voting for Brexit."