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'Misleading' Home Office ad on how EU citizens apply to stay in the UK banned

The advert claimed all that was needed to apply was a passport or ID card, which was found to be “misleading”.

Image: Shutterstock/Nejron Photo

A UK GOVERNMENT radio ad has been banned from the airwaves after a British regulator ruled that it was “misleading”.

A radio ad for the EU Settlement Scheme, which allows European citizens to stay in the UK post-Brexit, stated in April that all that was needed to apply was a passport or ID card:

“If you’re an EU citizen living in the UK, you will need to apply to the EU Settlement Scheme. The scheme is fully open and you have plenty of time to apply.

It is free, and all you need is your passport or ID card and to complete an online form. Support is available if you have any questions.

“To find out more and to apply, visit gov.uk/eusettlementscheme. Irish citizens or those with valid indefinite leave don’t need to apply.”

The scheme is for citizens from the EU, Switzerland, Iceland, Liechtenstein and Norway, as well as those who are born in the UK but are not a British citizen.

A complainant told the UK’s Advertising Standards Authority that they believed in some cases, applicants also needed to provide proof of address covering the previous five years, challenged whether the ad was misleading.

In a ruling published today, the ASA said that the ad breached BCAP Code rules 3.1 and 3.2 for ‘Misleading advertising’, and that it must not be aired again in its current format.

Home Office response

The Home Office, the UK government department that ran the ad, said that at no point was any applicant to the EU Settlement Scheme asked to provide proof of address as part of the application process. 

It argued that it was not possible to include all aspects of the application process in a short ad, and they believed listeners would appreciate that it was neither possible nor desirable to do so.

It also said that the radio ads accurately described the key elements of the application process in which a passport or ID card was required, and filling out an online form (basic details, evidence of residence in the UK and a criminal record declaration was needed for this).

The Home Office said that out of all adult cases on which a decision was made, 73% of applicants did not have to submit any documents as evidence of their residence.

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Ruling

The advertising authority acknowledged in its ruling that the reference to a passport and ID card were the “minimum documents” needed to complete an initial application, it said that listeners would take this to mean all the documents that would be needed for the entire process.

It said that although a proof of address wasn’t needed, in 27% of decided adult cases, applicants had been asked to provide documents as evidence of residence. Some applicants were also asked for other documents, such as evidence of a family relationship.

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.”

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