London launches mobile procedure for Europeans wishing to stay on after Brexit
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    London launches mobile procedure for Europeans wishing to stay on after Brexit

    The British Government on Monday launched a mobile application on which Europeans resident in Britain can apply if they wish to stay on in Britain after Brexit. About 3.5 million European citizens currently reside in the United Kingdom. They will need to request settled status to continue to work or receive social benefits after the country breaks ties with the European Union.

    The Home Office says it wants to simplify the procedure as much as possible. On the application, which does not yet work on iPhone, users are asked to photograph their biometric passports and faces to confirm their identity. They are then directed to an Internet site to input their address and can agree to have their location verified to confirm their address. The third step is to declare their criminal record. A heavy sentence can result in the rejection of the application.

    The app was used by 30,000 persons during a pilot phase in November and December. According to the Home Office, first results showed that 81% of the applications were processed within a week. No file was rejected, but almost 10% remained unanswered three weeks after the test phase. “We’re on the right track,” Immigration Minister Caroline Nokes commented.

    However, there has been much concern over the number of applications that might be made daily, with some estimates running as high as 6,000. The Home Office has taken on 1,900 persons to respond to this new workflow.

    This is an important test for the Home Office, according to Jill Rutter, specialist on immigration issues at the British Future think tank. She stresses that the stakes are high. If everything goes well, she says, the United Kingdom will send a strong message that Europeans are welcome and that the Government has the situation under control. If things go wrong, the consequences will be terrible, she warns.

    The procedure costs 74 euros, the price of a passport. It is free for people who already have permanent resident status.

    From 30 March, applications can also be made by mail or in person at local administrative offices. Discussions are being held with Apple to enable iPhone users to access the app.

    If there is a Brexit deal between London and Brussels, European citizens arriving in Britain before the end of 2020 will be able to apply for settled status as long as they do so by 30 June 2021.

    A no-deal would mean that only expatriates already settled in Britain before the Brexit date – 29 March 2019 – would be able to apply, and they would need to do so by 31 December 2020.

    Oscar Schneider
    The Brussels Times