The government has promised to fast-track the registration process for EU citizens who want to stay in the UK after Brexit, with decisions on applications to remain in the country reduced from six months to “a matter of days”.
Unveiling details of the “settlement scheme” for EU citizens, the Home Office promised that the application process would be “short, simple and user friendly” with a default position of accepting rather than rejecting applications.
Applicants will be asked to prove their identity, that they have no convictions, and that they currently live in the UK. The answers will then be compared to a database with the aim of giving the quickest answer possible.
Sajid Javid, Home Secretary, said: “With the scheme, we’re meeting our commitment to secure the rights of EU citizens who are already in this country, contributing in so many ways, they’re working, they’re studying, or for other reasons. We want them to stay and we want to make that process of staying as easy as possible.”
The scheme will open on a phased basis later this year and applications can be made online or smart phones. Passports and photographs can be posted or scanned in by owners of android mobiles but not iPhones.
Applications will cost £65 per adult, with children half price. EU citizens will be issued with an ID number, but not a physical card, which they will be required to use for public services such as the NHS and possibly employment and property rental checks.
It has been estimated that the Home Office will have to process up to 4,500 applications a day to get through 3.2m applications before the programme closes in June 2021. However, numbers could be even higher, with the Home Office saying there could be anything from “3.2m to 3.8m” EU citizens eligible for the scheme.
Applicants will be asked to submit their passport or ID cards along with a passport or digital photograph and the Home Office will then automatically check Revenue and Customs (HMRC), and Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) records for proof they have been living in the UK.
Anyone with a criminal record involving a jail sentence of more than 12 months is at risk of being rejected. Checks on the national police database and watch lists will be automatic but past crimes in the rest of Europe will not.
The scheme will be launched in the late summer with specially selected test groups, and the system will be rolled out in the following months, becoming fully operational by 30 March next year. It will remain open for two and a half years, with EU citizens who arrive in the country eligible to apply up until the end of December 2019, the proposed end of the transition period.
Those in the country for less than five years will be granted “pre-settled status” which can be swapped for a full “settled status” ID after five years.
The new status will also be considered a route to British citizenship, ending the need for EU citizens presently in the country to go through the permanent residency process.
Close family members, defined as “spouse, civil partner, durable partner, dependent child or grandchild or dependent parent or grandparent living overseas” will be allowed to join those with settled status under a “lifetime right” of EU citizens already in the country.
The Federation of Small Business also warned the government that the cost to settle was still high for low income EU workers saying it was imperative the process was “affordable” for all to ensure workforces weren’t stripped of their EU employees.
If you are an employer, please see the employer toolkit which will help equip you with the right tools and information to support any employee on the EU Settlement Scheme: https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/eu-settlement-scheme-employer-toolkit and key information about the EU settlement scheme: https://assets.publishing.service.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/728681/EU_Settlement_Scheme_Briefing_Pack.PDF