EU citizens will have to answer three “simple” questions online if they want to continue living in the UK after Brexit, the home secretary has said.
“We will not be looking for excuses to not grant settled status,” Sajid Javid told a Lords committee.
They will be asked to prove their ID, whether they have criminal convictions and whether they live in the UK.
Their answers will be checked against government databases and a decision given “very quickly”, said Mr Javid.
Full details of the proposed scheme will be set out shortly by immigration minister Caroline Nokes.
But the home secretary told the Lords EU Justice sub-committee the government’s “default” position would be to grant settled status and there would have to be “a very good reason why you are not going to get that”.
He said there would be two types of status granted:
Settled status – for those who have lived in the UK for five years or more
Pre-settled status – for those who have been in the UK less than five years
The scheme will operate online and via a smartphone app, Mr Javid said, and would be “as simple as people can reasonably expect”.
The government wants to get the scheme’s rules in place by July when it hopes to start trials of it, with people allowed to start registering in the autumn.
Mr Javid said he wanted it to be fully operational by the “start of next year”, adding that he wanted to avoid a “surge” of applicants when the UK leaves the EU in March.
The scheme would run throughout the two-year transition period after Brexit day and beyond, said the home secretary, up to June 2021.
The hope is that most applicants will not have to provide supporting documents because their answers will be checked against government databases – such as HM Revenue and Customs and the Department for Work and Pensions – as the system will be linked with those records.
Mr Javid said: “We are using government information, government records in a way, sadly, we didn’t with the Windrush generation and other cases, but actually proactively using that information, and I hope that message comes through.”
Applicants with Android phones will be able to download an app which can read the chip in their passport to verify their identity – and they will be able to take a “selfie” that can be checked against Home Office records, said Mr Javid.
But he said there was an “an issue at the moment” with Apple device users, who will not be able to make use of this app, and instead will have to send in their passport to prove their identity.
The home secretary said he had raised the issue with Apple on a recent visit to Silicon Valley and the company was “looking at it actively”.
Applicants without smartphones or computers will be able to fill in their application online at libraries and other locations, said the home secretary.
Those without access to computers, or who are unable to use them, will be given assistance and may be visited at home by immigration officials, who will help them complete the process, said the home secretary.
Mr Javid also accused EU nations, such as France and Spain, of failing to match the UK’s progress on plans for expats after Brexit.
There are 3.8 million EU citizens in the UK, and about 900,000 UK citizens in the EU, according to ONS figures.
Both sides of the Brexit negotiations have resolved to secure the status of expats by the time the UK leaves the EU in March 2019.
But any deal they reach will have to be ratified by the European Parliament and agreed to by member states.
If the UK leaves the EU without a deal then the status of British citizens living in the EU member states is less certain.
The UK would expect member states to allow Britons living in the EU the same rights as it plans to grant EU citizens in the UK but it would be down to individual countries to decide what to do.>