IfG report says the digital platform for applications from EU residents to stay in UK after Brexit will not be ready in time – and predicts 11-year backlog
A new digital platform to cope with an anticipated deluge of residency applications from worried EU nationals will not be ready in time, a think tank report has warned.
The Institute for Government (IfG) has said the Home Office is still a long way from providing a fully digital service and that it could take up to 11 years to process all the expected residency requests, unless the process is “streamlined”.
Its report, Implementing Brexit: Immigration, says the Home Office is developing a “fully online service” after mounting criticism of the existing 85-page form that up to 3 million EU citizens are currently expected to fill in if they wish to stay permanently after Brexit.
Officials have already tried to stem the flow by asking them to hold fire and “sign up for email news alerts” about what action they may need to take in the future.
The report notes that “progress is being made”, adding: “There is now a more user-friendly online form, offering applicants an alternative to the much maligned 85-page hard copy form.
“But this is a long way from a fully digital service. Applicants still have to print to their application for postage and the processing takes place in much the same way.”
The IfG says the promised fully online service would use HM Revenue and Customs data to reduce processing times, but adds: “It is not expected to be ready in time to deal with the bulk of the Brexit related applications.”
The IfG points out that 2 million of the 3 million EU nationals in the UK can already apply for residency – having lived here for five years – with many of the remaining 1 million qualifying by 2019.
But it notes: “To process all EU nationals currently eligible for permanent residence by March 2019, the Home Office would need to make roughly 3,600 decisions per day; it is currently making about 650 decisions per day.”
The calculation implies that, on current trends, it will take around 11 years to process the claims – with just two years to go until Britain is due to leave the EU.
In addition, an army of 5,000 extra Home Office staff would be required to process applications under the current tortuous system, on top of 140 already recruited.
“The current process for dealing with permanent residence applications from EU nationals is not fit for purpose,” said Jill Rutter, the IfG Brexit programme director.
Britain has refused to grant EU nationals in the UK the right to remain and work after Brexit until the 1.1 million British ex-pats in the EU are given the same guarantee.
Image by Swissbert, public domain through flickr