- The United Kingdom faces the huge, complex task of registering over 3.6 million EU nationals ahead of Brexit so they can apply for “settled status.”
- Theresa May’s government has unveiled plans for a new, digital system which it says will make the process much easier.
- Applications will cost £65 for adults and £32.50 for children.
- The burden of proof will rest on the UK government, not the applicant.
- Business Insider has spoken to several people briefed on the plans to understand exactly how the application process will work.
LONDON -The United Kingdom faces the enormous task of registering over 3.6 million EU nationals ahead of Brexit so they can remain in the country under a “settled status” scheme. Earlier this month, the Home Office released details of how it plans to do it.
So what will that new system look like? As well as reviewing the government guidelines on the scheme, Business Insider spoke to several people familiar with the process to build a picture of exactly how the scheme will look.
Here’s everything you need to know about how it will work.
The smartphone app
EU citizens expressed alarm after the Home Office admitted in May that the new smartphone application for the “settled status” scheme wouldn’t work on iPhones.
How would the vast numbers of people without access to an Android-operated phone be able to register? What about people without chips in their passport?
First things first: The Home Office is keen to emphasise that the app is only one part of a much wider new system, albeit one that’s received the bulk of media coverage.
The app will be able to scan passports with biometric chips which instantly upload a user’s data to the cloud. But there will also be non-digital options available, the Home Office says, similar to those which exist for visa extensions and permanent citizenship applications.
“Technology will play an important role in making applications simple but this is only part of the process for those who choose to use it, and there will be alternative non-digital routes available to all applicants to prove their identity,” a Home Office spokesperson told BI.
How will the app work?
That said, the app will be an important part of the registration process for many people as it will allow those with the right technology to identify themselves almost instantly. One EU citizen asked to test-run the app, which remains in its pilot phase, told BI in May how the process currently works:
1. When you open the app, you will be asked to answer some basic questions: Your name, whether you’re an EU national, whether you live in the UK, and whether you have a criminal record.
2. You will then be asked to provide documentation proving your identity. If your passport contains a biometric chip, you will be able to scan it using an Android phone’s built-in scanning software. Apple doesn’t allow third-party apps to use that software, which is the issue that means the app won’t work on iPhones.
The person who tested the app said their passport was recognised and scanned by the phone almost instantly.
3. You will then be asked to take a selfie, which appears to be for the purpose of verifying that you are who say you are.
If you are unable to access an Android phone, it will be possible to revert to more old-fashioned methods of proving your identity, such as posting a passport or ID card to a processing centre. Contact centres will offer support and “user-friendly guidance,” the Home Office says.
How much will it cost?
Applications will cost £65 for adults and £32.50 for children who are under 16. There will be no fee for children in care.
The fee is the same as the current fee for a permanent citizenship application. If EU citizens hold a permanent resident or indefinite leave to remain document, they can swap them for the new settled status document for free.
The Home Office says £300 million has been set aside to process the applications.
When can EU citizens apply?
The Home Office plans to roll out the scheme in phases starting later this year, with the process fully open by the end of March 2019. Immigration minister Caroline Nokes stressed earlier in June that there is “no rush” for EU citizens to apply because their rights will not change before the end of the implementation period in December 2020.
The deadline for applications will be June 30, 2021.
What happens once you’ve submitted your application?
Once an individual has been identified, their application will be passed to a caseworker in Liverpool.
Usually, the burden of proof falls on the individual applicant to prove their right to remain in the UK, by providing extensive documentation. The new system places that responsibility on the government instead.
The Home Office has confirmed that it will use data from Her Majesty’s Revenue & Customs (HMRC), the Department for Work & Pensions (DWP) to prove how long they have been resident in the UK. Residents will need to prove they have lived in the UK for five years in order to be granted settled status.
The status of children of will likely be determined by establishing their relationship to an adult with a permanent record of residency. Citizens whose data is not held by HMRC or DWP are still waiting for confirmation of exactly how the Home Office plans to certify their UK residency.
The Home Office says this has already been decided, and indeed it formed part of the December and March agreements struck between the UK and EU.
Any deportations or refusals on the grounds of criminality will be in line with EU law up to and including the implementation period, which is scheduled to last until December 2020.
The agreement means only criminals who can be deported under EU law will have their applications refused. As one person familiar with the plans pointed out, it’s highly likely that criminals who are liable to be deported under EU law are already on the Home Office’s radar, meaning that the application process is unlikely to directly result in criminals being deported.
After the transition period ends in December 2020, criminals from EU states will likely be subject to the same rigorous UK deportation rules as criminals from the rest of the world.
How long will it take?
The Home Office hopes to process applications within two weeks.
Will it actually work?
A host of problems remain for the Home Office, and there remain significant doubts among EU citizens whether a department known for its blunders, particularly on IT-related projects, is capable of registering such a large number of citizens in such a short amount of time.
In its broadest sense, EU nationals say the “settled status” scheme amounts to a loss of rights from the arrangement they currently possess under the EU’s freedom of movement rules. It also falls far short of granting them full British citizenship.
Other significant concerns include the fact many people are likely simply not to register, either because they are scared of having their applications rejected, or unaware that they are required to do so. Among a group of 3.6 million people, the chances are that large numbers will inevitably fall through the cracks. What then happens to those individuals?
As Business Insider reported in May, EU citizens living in the UK fear they could become the next victims of the so-called “hostile environment” immigration policies which have hit the Windrush generation of Caribbean-born UK citizens.
These and other serious questions hang over the immense bureaucratic task facing the Home Office. Until full details of the registration scheme are released, those questions will remain.
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