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The Home Office has begun trialling its EU settlement scheme, allowing EU nationals to apply for settled status in the UK using a digital system.
The private beta pilot is open to 4,000 EU citizens across 12 NHS trusts in the north-west of England, and students and staff from three Liverpool universities.
The pilot scheme, which allows EU nationals to digitally apply for settled status, aims to make the application process simple and quick.
A document on the application process, issued for Home Office staff, said that during the private beta, applicants can only “apply using the relevant application form”.
Those applying will have to submit information such as their home address and contact information, as well as scanning their passport or any other evidence needed. “They need only submit the original document(s) where you have reasonable doubt as to the authenticity of the information submitted.”
The information is then matched with information the government holds on the citizen. The online process uses application programming interfaces (APIs) to link to HM Revenue & Customs (HMRC) tax databases to confirm people’s employment, match their national insurance number and residency status.
“Where these checks indicate that the applicant has been continuously resident in the UK for at least five years, and where the applicant has confirmed, by way of a self-declaration as part of the application process, that they have not since been absent from the UK for a period of more than five consecutive years, no further evidence of residence will be required to determine eligibility,” the document said.
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The Home Office aims to use feedback from the pilot to tweak the final system before beginning a phased roll-out later this year. By March 2019, the system will be fully deployed and open to all EU citizens.
Yesterday, immigration minister Caroline Nokes said the Home Office has made “great progress in preparing for the implementation of the EU Settlement Scheme, which will make it easy for EU citizens to get the status they need”.
“From today, we are inviting a small group of EU citizens to make an application to secure their status. We will use their feedback to make any necessary adjustments ahead of the Scheme being fully opened.”
The Home Office’s digital solutions for the EU settlement scheme came under fire earlier this year, as it emerged that the mobile app it has developed would only work for Android users as Apple does not allow third-party apps to access the near-field communication (NFC) capabilities needed to scan passport chips.
However, a recent study from think tank Policy Exchange, suggested an iPhone app may also be available soon.