Home secretary tells parliamentary committee that plans are in place to support applications for ‘settled status’
Data sharing across departments will enable the Government to solve the problem of registering 3 million EU nationals for Brexit, the home secretary has said.
Amber Rudd rejected warnings that some of those citizens will be left in limbo for a decade, because the system is broken, insisting that improvements are in the pipeline.
She told MPs that 1,200 extra staff would need to be recruited by next April, to provide an “easy access” registration process to start by the end of next year.
It would be a simple process to apply online – in stark contrast to the notorious 87-page form that people applying for permanent residence in the UK must currently plough through.
Crucial to that transformation will be checking citizens’ details with records held by both HM Revenue and Customs and the Department for Work and Pensions, Rudd told the Commons Home Affairs Select Committee last week.
That would make it possible for the Home Office to adopt a default position of accepting applications from EU nationals for the new “settled status” they will require after Brexit.
Think tank warning
Earlier this year, the Institute for Government warned it would take around 11 years to process the millions of expected residency requests at the current workrate. Revealing that just 135,000 decisions were made last year, it suggested a new immigration system could not be ready for several years.
But the home secretary pledged: “This is going to be a completely different system to the type of systems that people are used to using.
“We will be able to access information from HMRC, from DWP, with their permission, in order to make it very straightforward, very clearly aligned, to be completed online.
“They will be accepted for it unless there are fraud issues or unless there are criminality issues.
“So, although we are tooling up with extra staff, we expect the vast majority of people when they register to be able to do it very simply online.”
Under the plans, EU nationals will be able to apply for settled status’ biometric residence permits if they have lived in Britain for more than five years. But those who failed criminal record checks, are jobless or fail identity checks, may be rejected.
Rudd denied there had been a high error rate in Home Office decisions on EU nationals' applications for permanent residence, but accepted there had been mistakes in individual cases.
“We are going to be testing and rolling it out in stages to make sure we get it right,” she told the MPs.
Image by Swissbert, public domain through flickr