Home Office settlement scheme advert banned for ‘misleading’ EU citizens

Regulator says department’s commercial did not make sufficiently clear what would need to be submitted in some cases

The Home Office's settled status app. Photo: Isabel Infantes/EMPICS Entertainment

By Nicholas Mairs

28 Aug 2019

A Home Office advertisement outlining the steps EU citizens must take to be able to stay in Britain after Brexit has been banned after watchdogs said it was “misleading”.

The department’s radio broadcast for its EU settlement scheme claimed that applicants only needed a passport or ID card to complete the online form.

But the Advertising Standards Authority has ruled that in some cases, applicants also needed to provide proof of address for the last five years.

The watchdog said the advert, which aired in April, cannot be broadcast again and pointed out that in more than a quarter of decided adult cases, more information was required.


“Listeners would likely understand that an official application process of this nature would always require some applicants to provide further information in exceptional cases,” the ASA said.

“However, we understood that in 27% of decided adult cases, applicants had been asked to provide documents as evidence of residence.

“Furthermore, some applicants were also asked for other documents, such as evidence of a family relationship.

“While we acknowledged that applicants were not required specifically to submit ‘proof of address’ (as referenced by the complainant), some were required to submit further documents beyond those stated in the ad.

“We considered that the actual proportion who were asked to submit further documents was likely to go beyond what the audience was likely to understand from the claim.

“In that context, we considered that the ad did not make sufficiently clear that, in some cases, applicants would need to supply documents beyond their passport or ID card.”

The Home Office said: "We completely disagree with ASA's decision."

They added: “The campaign has had a positive impact and encouraged more than one million successful applications so far. The scheme is free, straightforward and EU citizens and their family members have plenty of time to apply.

“All they need to apply is their passport or ID card and to complete an online form.”

There are an estimated 3.3 million European Union citizens living in the UK.

The scheme has been open to EU, EEA and Swiss citizens since March, with a deadline on applications of 31 December 2020 if the UK leaves without a deal, and 30 June 2021 if it leaves with a deal. It has been criticised for being overly reliant on digital and online platforms, and warned that the lack of physical documentation provided to citizens has “clear parallels” with the Windrush scandal.

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