Europeans living in Scotland affected by immigration changes due to Brexit will be able to get support from a new £800,000 scheme.
Changing rules coming into force in March next year will mean EU citizens and their family members will be required to apply to secure their rights through an online system.
Consequently the Scottish Government is introducing a new service, through the Citizens Advice Bureau, to help EU nationals with their immigration status following the UK’s expected withdrawal from the European Union.
The Citizens Advice Bureau will begin increasing capacity to offer more advice and support, and a solicitor-led helpline will also be established for difficult and complex cases.
Visiting Leith Citizens Advice Bureau in Edinburgh on International Migrants Day, Scottish Government Migration Minister Ben Macpherson said: “The Scottish Government is absolutely committed to doing all it can to speak up for and in support of EU citizens at this uncertain and anxious time.
“Scotland is a welcoming and progressive nation and we deeply value the huge contribution of all those who have chosen to make their home here.
“We passionately want relatives, friends, neighbours and colleagues from other EU countries to stay in Scotland - and that is why this funding will help to give people reassurances about their rights and access advice about how to secure settled status through the UK Government’s immigration system.
“This new Scottish Government funded advice service will be over and above what the UK Government is proposing.
“By providing additional help, as well as being accessible at Citizens Advice Bureaux across Scotland, our service will have a particular focus on vulnerable and hard to reach groups who may find it difficult, or are unable or unwilling, to apply online without assistance, including people living in remote and rural areas.
“The Citizens Advice network is highly trusted and I am delighted to be partnering with them on this service. I hope that providing this additional service will help to ensure that EU citizens in Scotland - who are relatives, friends, neighbours and colleagues - feel welcome, supported and valued during this uncertain time.”
Commenting on the controversial fee to apply to be recognised as a “settled” UK citizen of £65 for people 16 or over or £32.50 for under 16s, Mr Macpherson added: “The Scottish Government is clear that EU citizens should not be being asked to apply to retain the rights that they already have, and that they certainly should not be charged a fee for that application.
“We will continue to make the case that the UK Government should scrap their unfair fee for settled status applications.”
A Home Office spokesman said: “The EU Settlement Scheme will make it simple and straightforward for EU citizens to get the status they need and they have until June 2021 to apply. We have already successfully processed many thousands of applications throughout the pilot of the scheme.
“We are working closely with organisations representing vulnerable EU citizens and we are providing up to £9 million grant funding to ensure they are supported in making their application.”