A Government minister has claimed early success for their online scheme for EU nationals seeking to stay in the UK after Brexit, as the first applications took 15 to 20 minutes to complete.
The technology performed well in the voluntary trial of more than 650 people in North-West England, immigration minister Caroline Nokes said.
Around 95% of applicants who provided feedback to the Home Office found the application process easy to carry out, taking on average 15-20 minutes, she added.
All of them have been granted the leave they were expecting, with no refusals under the controversial process to achieve “settled status” and the right to remain.
But in a letter to the Commons home affairs committee the minister said her department had “learned lessons” which had “enabled us to make technical changes to improve the overall customer experience”. These included improvements to the “data matching capability”, terminology in the application process and the process for verifying the applicant's email address.
Crime and security
Information held by the tax or benefit authorities is being matched to confirm residence in the UK. Applications are also run through criminality and security databases.
The Home Office announced that a second trial phase will run from 1 November to 21 December, focusing on 250,000 EU citizens working in the health and education sectors. It will test the scheme with vulnerable individuals for the first time, to address concerns about the capacity of elderly people and children looked after by local authorities to register in the online process.
Ministers are confident the scheme will be fully operational by the time Britain is due to leave the EU in March next year.
But Yvette Cooper, the home affairs committee’s Labour chairwoman, said: “It still isn't clear when they will have tested the entire process, nor how the system will work at scale.
“This is, obviously, still a small scale pilot. The committee's biggest concerns about the scheme have been whether the Home Office has a smooth system that can work for millions of people at once, and also whether they will be able to reach everyone to make sure nobody loses their rights.”
There has been controversy over the admission that Apple iPhone users are unable to fully use a new app designed to help the EU citizens register to stay.
For the core system, applicants who have been in the UK for five years by the end of 2020 can apply. Those who have arrived by 31 December 2020 but do not have five years' residence can seek to stay until they have, at which point they can seek settled status.
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