EU nationals living in the UK will have until June 2021 to apply for permanent residency at a cost of £65 per person, under a proposed scheme unveiled on Thursday (21 June).
Under the EU Settlement Scheme announced by the UK Home Secretary Sajid Javid , any EU citizen or their family member who has been living in the UK for five years will be eligible for ‘settled status’ giving them indefinite leave to remain.
The government wants the scheme to come into effect before the end of 2018 in a bid to avoid a surge of applicants after the UK leaves the EU next March. However, that will require new legislation, including an Independent Monitoring Authority to supervise the scheme, to be passed by the UK Parliament.
The UK’s Home Office has been allocated £170 million to fund the scheme which it plans to run ‘in house’ with around 1500 caseworkers, UK officials told EURACTIV.
Officials say that the scheme is ‘looking for reasons to grant rather than refuse’ residency.
To obtain settled or non-settled status, applicants who do not already have permanent residency or indefinite leave to remain in the UK will have to fill in an online form and pay £65 (€70 ), or £32.50 for children.
The form can also be completed on a app that is available on Android devices, and Javid told a House of Lords committee on Thursday that it would be “as simple as people can resasonably expect.”
Applicants will be required to provide an identity card, demonstrate that they have been living in the UK and pass a check for criminal convictions. UK officials say that applicants’ answers will then be checked against government tax and social security records.
Irish citizens will be exempt from needing to use the Settlement scheme.
Despite the government’s promises, the Windrush scandal, where a number of British citizens who arrived as part of thousands of Caribbean migrants in the 1950s were threatened with, and in some cases, wrongly deported, and the UK government’s poor record of handling large databases has prompted concern about its ability to manage the scheme.
UK officials estimate that around 3.5 million EU nationals currently live in the UK. The Home Office has issued 200,000 permanent residence documents over the past five years. It also issues around seven million passports each year.
Speaking on Thursday, Javid called on EU member states to publish more concrete details on how UK nationals living across the EU will be able to secure their status.
“Publishing details on how we will administer our settled status scheme shows we are honouring the commitments made towards EU citizens living in the UK,” he said.
Javid also accused some EU countries, including France and Spain, of failing to match the UK with commitments for Britons living in their countries.
EU and UK negotiators brokered an agreement on citizens’ rights in December, which guaranteed the rights of EU citizens living in the UK and UK nationals living in EU Member States.
However, the UK’s offer will have to be ratified by MEPs and is likely to fall short of the European Parliament’s demands. On Wednesday, Guy Verhofstadt, who leads the Parliament’s Brexit Steering Group, argued that the process should be free.
“Why should EU citizens be financially punished for the Brexit referendum outcome?” he asked.