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With less than a fortnight remaining until the UK is set to leave the European Union (EU), the Home Office has finally made available an iOS version of its ID Document Check mobile application for EU, European Economic Area (EEA) and Swiss nationals to apply for Pre-Settled and Settled status in the UK after Brexit.
However, the app – which supports people in confirming their right to continue to live and work in the UK – will currently only work on the most recent iPhone models, beginning with the iPhone 8, launched in the autumn of 2017.
The Home Office said a version for the iPhone 7 and iPhone 7 Plus will become available following “an upcoming iOS software update”.
To use the EU Exit: ID Document Check app, users will need a valid biometric EU, EEA (Iceland, Liechtenstein and Norway) or Swiss passport or ID card or a UK-issued biometric residence card. To be eligible for Settled status, users usually need to have lived in the UK, Channel Islands or Isle of Man for at least six months in any 12-month period for five consecutive years. Those who don’t meet these criteria may qualify for Pre-Settled status.
The deadline for applications is 30 June 2021, although this will roll back to 31 December 2020 should the UK leave the EU in a no-deal Brexit scenario.
In April 2018 a pilot version of the app attracted controversy after it emerged that it would not work on iOS devices because Apple would not permit third-party developers to access the near-field communication (NFC) features needed to scan biometric passport chips, functionality that is available on Android devices.
At the time, the Home Office suggested that iPhone-owning EU citizens in the UK simply borrow someone else’s Android phone.
Following negotiations “at the highest level” between the UK government and Apple, it was announced more than six months ago that an iOS version would be released. Sajid Javid, who at the time was serving as home secretary, said the app would work on iPhones and iPads by the end of 2019.
Writing on Twitter, the Three Million, a grassroots campaign organisation that represents EU, EEA and Swiss citizens resident in the UK, said that even though the app was now available for iOS devices, many people would still be left “out of the loop”.
The group pointed out that Apple holds just under 50% of the UK smartphone market, but only one in three devices are iPhone 8s or newer, and even with the iPhone 7 factored in, only around six in every 10 users will be able to access the app.
“The addition of the iPhone app for the EU Settlement Scheme is welcome but it only reduces the technical barrier of applying, it does not remove it,” said the group.
“With average travel distance to local scanning centres for those who have not got the right phone still being 30 miles across the UK, ‘borrowing a friend’s phone’ will remain the best option to apply for Settled Status for many EU, EEA, Swiss citizens and their families.”
Other methods of establishing settled status remain available, such as sending documents to the Home Office by post.
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- A survey of TechUK members has found that 71% believe a no-deal Brexit at the end of October will negatively affect them in spite of their preparations.