Tax & benefit data to speed ‘settled status’
Most of the 3.2m EU citizens in the UK will be granted permission to stay after Brexit in “a matter of days” following simple data checks, the Home Office says.
Information held by the tax or benefit authorities will be enough to confirm residence – and eligibility for the new settled status – in the “majority” of cases, according to officials.
However, Sajid Javid, the Home Secretary, was forced to admit that Apple iPhone users will not able to fully use a new app designed to help the EU citizens register to stay.
Users of other devices will be able to read the chip on their passport and submit a selfie to help prove their identity – but the technology does not work with Apple products. “There is an issue at the moment,” Mr Javid told an inquiry by peers in the House of Lords. “It’s something we are discussing with Apple.”
The glitch marred the Home Office’s attempts to ease tensions with EU citizens by promising to fast-track the controversial registration for settled status. It said the process would be “short, simple and user friendly” with a default position of accepting applications once people had proved their identity, that they had no convictions and were living in the UK.
The scheme will open on a phased basis later this year and will cost £65 for an adult, with children half price.
Automated checks of HMRC and DWP data are key to the promise of speed. “We expect that, for the majority of EU citizens who are or have been working, we will be able to help them confirm their residence in this way,” the Home Office said.
Anyone unable – or unwilling – to apply using national insurance numbers and tax records, will be able to offer other proof of residence, such as council tax bills, rental or mortgage statements, and utility bills. Passports and photos can be posted, or scanned and sent via mobile phones – but not iPhones.
Mr Javid explained: “With a non-Apple phone, in most cases, you will be able to download an app which if you put your passport next to your phone it will be able to download that information, send it to us straight away through the app.
“And then you take a picture of yourself, a selfie – you download that too and it will match that with the information that’s downloaded from the chip, put it together and it will confirm your ID electronically.”
The Home Secretary said that hundreds of extra officials are being employed in a European casework team, which is more than doubling from 700 to 1,500 to deal with the new settlement system. “I don’t underestimate the scale of the challenge, I do recognise that. Nothing like this has been done by the Home Office before,” he told peers.
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.