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Home Office releases pilot phase report as EU Settlement Scheme opens


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The Home Office has released a report on its EU Settlement Scheme pilot phase, carried out late last year. The scheme, under which almost all EU citizens living in the UK must apply to stay here after Brexit, opens for most applicants today.

The Home Office says that it made over 27,000 decisions on settled status applications submitted during the “Private Beta 2” test phase, between 1 November and 21 December. All were accepted. 70% were granted settled status, while the other 30% received “pre-settled status” (for EU nationals who have been here for under five years).

That figure of zero refusals should be treated with caution. Around 2,800 applications were still pending because they are “incomplete or awaiting further evidence”. Almost 1,000 of this cohort still need to send in their physical passport (i.e. were unable to use the Android app to scan their passport instead of posting it off). Another third seem to have incorrectly thought they had a permanent residence document, which can be exchanged for settled status free of charge. In fact they had a different type of EU residence document, such as a registration certificate or residence card, which look very similar.

An unspecified “smaller proportion” of cases “were held pending further evidence of residence to be submitted from the applicant”. In other words, these applications could yet be refused and probably would have been if the Home Office had been operating business as usual. Instead, caseworkers have given the applicant a chance to find more evidence to prove that they qualify.

Of the successful applications, over 80% received their grant of status within a week. 77% said that the process was “very or fairly easy” to complete. This may sounds positive, but if 23% find it difficult, that is around 800,000 people that can be expected to have problems with the system.

On the ID app, the report says:

Whilst the app performed well in PB2 across a wide range of devices, there were users who experienced difficulty when reading their passport chip and we are taking steps to improve the guidance and support available to applicants.

There was also a “technical disruption” at one point, affecting 380 applicants and resulting in the temporary suspension of the pilot. Around one in six applicants called a Home Office helpline during their application, and still more emailed in.

The pilot scheme was open to EU citizens employed in the higher education, healthcare and social care sectors. It also processed applications from some vulnerable applicants, such as children in care and people receiving support from particular community groups. But concerns remains about vulnerable people without support from social workers who may fail the application or not apply at all. The Home Office has no system in place for counting how many people ultimately fall through the cracks.

All EU citizens with a passport can apply for settled status from today, as can non-EU family members with a biometric residence card. Those with ID cards, and citizens of Norway, Switzerland, Iceland and Liechtenstein, must wait until March.

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CJ McKinney

CJ McKinney

CJ McKinney is a specialist on immigration law and policy. Formerly the editor of Free Movement, you will find a lot of articles by CJ here on this website! Twitter: @mckinneytweets.