EU Settlement Scheme - Public Test Phase Now Open
Following two private trials reserved for NHS workers, university staff and students in the North West of England, the public test phase of the EU Settlement Scheme opened for applications for EU Settled Status today, on 21 January 2019.
EU Settlement Scheme – Who Can Apply?
The test phase is open to EU citizens with a valid EU passport and their family members, as long as they hold a biometric residence card. According to the Home Office, when the service opens fully on 30 March 2019, it will also be open to nationals of Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway or Switzerland, as well as dual EU-British nationals.
EU Settled Status – How Can I Apply?
Applications during the test phase can be accessed from this Gov.uk webpage. To start the application process, one would need to have access to an Android phone with “contactless” technology. It could not be more specific. 13 locations across the UK offer ID document scanning for those without access to such a phone on an appointment basis. Details on how to use the relevant “app”, which can be downloaded from Android’s app store Google Play, can be found here. The verification of the applicant’s identity using the app involves 4 stages:
- Scanning the photo page of the passport (or the biometric residence card presumably, although I have only used the app with the former);
- Checking the biometric information of the passport (again, presumably also the biometric residence card) by placing the phone on top of the passport when prompted;
- Scanning the applicant’s face, if over 10 years old (flashing lights are involved); and
- Taking a photograph of the applicant’s face.
Once the verification process is complete, the application can be continued on the same or a different phone or computer. By that time, the Home Office would have sent an email to the email address the applicant has provided on the app, containing a link with which to verify the email address, and another leading to the webpage mentioned above, through which one can continue the application process.
Once this stage of the application is accessed, the number of the applicant’s identity document verified previously through the app and their date of birth will be requested. Once those are provided, and following some security checks, the applicant’s previously verified personal details will be carried over.
The next step will involve the applicant declaring whether they have been issued with a permanent residence document or granted indefinite leave to remain. Otherwise, the applicant’s residence in the UK can be evidenced by providing their National Insurance number.
The applicant will then be asked to declare any criminal convictions or charges in the UK and overseas which appear in their criminal record and whether they have been involved in any terrorist related activities, war crimes, crimes against humanity or genocide. This is to assess an applicant’s suitability under Appendix EU to the Immigration Rules, guidance to which can be found here.
The applicant’s digital photograph will have been carried over from the id document check app and will not need to be uploaded again in those circumstances.
Finally, the automated checks using the applicant’s National Insurance number will determine whether they are provisionally eligible for settled or pre-settled status. Essentially, if HMRC or the DWP hold UK tax or benefits records for the applicant for a continuous period of at least 5 years, that would be sufficient for settled status. In the event this is not the case, for instance because the applicant has not been working for the whole period yet they have resided in the UK continuously for at least 5 years, they will be told they are eligible for pre-settled status but given the option to show they are eligible for settled status instead, by submitting documentary evidence electronically.
Applicants will be able to upload a maximum of 10 documents, with each document being no more than 6MB in size. After uploading each document, applicants will be asked to confirm the date or the date range the document evidences. A guide to providing evidence of UK residence can be found here. Only proof of residence during the years not sufficiently evidenced through the provision of the applicant’s National Insurance number will be required to show the requisite 5 years’ of residence to qualify for settled status. The missing periods are indicated within the application process, after the automated checks have been carried out.
Once the applicant has uploaded all documents and completed all relevant fields, and once payment has been made electronically, if required, the application can be submitted. A confirmation email with the application number will be sent to the provided email address, along with another email with an electronic Certificate of Application letter attached to it. A link to the current expected processing times for applications is also provided, however the processing times following the launch of the public test phase have not been published as of the time of writing.
EU Settlement Scheme – Comment
Whilst for myself, and many in my position who are not immigration barristers, navigating the application process may not be particularly challenging, I could not help but be reminded of scenes from Ken Loach’s poignant and viscerally realistic film “I, Daniel Blake”. In that film, a 59-year old widower who had worked as a joiner for most of his life is required to navigate a labyrinthine system of red tape in order to survive, following an illness that has left him unfit for work; a system that treats him with suspicion, contempt and indignity.
It is hardly unfathomable that a lot of European nationals, who perhaps have lived in the UK for decades have never used a computer, let alone completed an online form. How can a process requiring access to a smartphone, or alternatively travelling to one of only 13, at the moment, locations in the UK with the associated travel costs, be suitable for those who are not computer literate, who are disabled, who are impoverished? And what would be the consequences for failing to utilise a process that has not catered to their needs? Another Windrush scandal?
Daniel Blake’s eulogy read: “I am not a client, a customer, nor a service user. I am not a shirker, a scrounger, a beggar nor a thief. I am not a national insurance number, nor a blip on a screen. I paid my dues, never a penny short, and was proud to do so. I don’t tug the forelock but look my neighbour in the eye. I don’t accept or seek charity. My name is Daniel Blake, I am a man, not a dog. As such I demand my rights. I demand you treat me with respect. I, Daniel Blake, am a citizen, nothing more, nothing less. Thank you.”
If Daniel Blake was British, what’s the hope for those that are not?
Contact Our Immigration Barristers & Lawyers
For expert advice and assistance with an application for EU Settled Status under the EU Settlement Scheme, contact our immigration barristers & lawyers in London on 0203 6177 9173 or via our enquiry form below.