Settlement Scheme for EU Citizens

It is an unsettling time (no pun intended) for our EU friends and colleagues who have rightly been clamouring for information (as have their employers) on where they will stand after Brexit.
At the end of June, the Home Office published its proposed settlement scheme that will become fully implemented on 30th March 2019.
They say that the aim is to allow EU citizens to apply for settled status in the UK quickly and cheaply. There are 3 steps:

  • Prove identity,
  • Show they live in the UK
  • Declare they have no serious criminal convictions.

Applications will cost £65 or £32.50 for a child under 16. If their application is accepted they will be given an identity number to use for public services such as the NHS, but they will not have a physical identity card.
The Government has said that in most cases, the second step (proof of residence) will be automatic and the Home Office will be checking the employment and benefit records to which they have easy access to verify this step.
Note that if a citizen already has permanent residence or indefinite leave to remain documents, they will have the opportunity to exchange this for settled status without charge.  Quite right given that many of them will have already paid for such applications.
To be eligible, an EU citizen must have lived here for five years; if they haven’t, then they are only eligible for what is called “pre-settled status”. What this means is that they can stay here and once they reach the 5 years then they can then go on to apply for settled status which will be free of charge after April 2019. From July 2021, it will be mandatory to hold settled or pre-settled status.
The Government has said they want to make it as easy as possible, so the intention is that applications can be easily made online.  But for those who are not so tech-savvy, help will apparently be on hand with caseworkers being made available to those who need it.
This scheme will be phased in at the end of this year with the intention that it is fully operational by end of March 2019. Further developments on this scheme may occur in the meantime as currently this is just a first draft from the Home Office and has yet to be delivered to Parliament. In addition, the Home Office has declared they will remain in close contact with employers about the detailed design of the scheme before it is presented to Parliament.
All this sounds great, and I’m trying hard not to be sceptical, but the numbers are what concerns many people.  One commentary that I have read stated that there would have to be over 4,500 applications completed a day to meet the deadline of June 2021.  Will there be enough resources?  Let’s hope that good tech can help here – and that after all this noise, this will still be in place no matter what Brexit we end up with.