EU citizens will have to answer three questions and pay a fee of £65 if they wish to stay in Britain after Brexit, the Home Office has confirmed.
Residents and their family members who have been in the UK for five years by the end of 2020 will be able to apply for “settled status”, which will mean they are free to go on living and working in the UK indefinitely.
Applicants will be required to verify their identity and nationality, declare whether they have a criminal record, and prove how long they have continuously lived in the UK, Sajid Javid confirmed today.
Those who have arrived by December 31, 2020, but do not have five years’ residence, can seek to stay until they have, at which point they can apply for settled status.
The fee is the same as the current cost for a permanent residence document and £10.50 cheaper than the minimum for a standard British passport.
The Home Office hopes to begin testing an online platform with a small number of real cases from the end of the summer, ahead of a phased roll-out later this year.
Publishing a “statement of intent” on the arrangements, Mr Javid said: “Throughout, we will be looking to grant, not for reasons to refuse.
“I do not underestimate the scale of the challenge, but the Home Office already issues around seven million passports and three million visas each year, and so processing applications on the scale required is not new to us.”
The founder of The 3 Million, a pressure group that advocates for the rights of EU citizens living in the UK, responded to the news with concern.
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Maike Bohn said: ‘We want the UK government to remove all barriers preventing EU citizens to live a normal life, as before Brexit.
‘The fee for the new application scheme is one of them and we want the scheme to be free so people aren’t prevented from applying for financial reasons.
‘The British Government has a duty of care – they must work towards documenting all EU citizens by 2021, not just 90% as reported by one of our members from her meeting with the Home Office yesterday.
‘To do so, they must remove all barriers which could prevent EU citizens from applying, like charging a fee. As Amber Rudd put it, it should be as simple as registering for a store loyalty card.’
The system has been met with opposition by the EU’s Brexit co-ordinator Guy Verhofstadt.
He told MPs: “There are still a number of concerns we have on the cost of the system and whether vulnerable people will have access – and also about the reaction time of the Home Office.
“Everyone can be a victim in Brexit – but not the citizens.”
Mr Javid has also pressed the EU to offer solid details on how UK nationals in Europe will be able to secure their rights after Brexit.
At present, 1.2 million Brits living in the EU will lose their free movement rights – only keeping the chance to stay in a ‘host country’.
Mr Javid said: “Publishing details of how we will administer our settled status scheme shows we are honouring commitments made towards EU citizens living in the UK.
“But I am concerned that I have not seen any similar plans on how EU member states are going to support British nationals in their countries.
“This is not good enough and I hope both the European Parliament and Commission will exert more pressure for them to do this as soon as possible.”