The registration of 3 million EU nationals for “settled status” in Britain will involve an online application form with six to eight questions, a cost of no more than £72, and a decision delivered within two weeks, the immigration minister, Brandon Lewis, has said.
Lewis told peers on Tuesday that the simplified online application process to register the 3 million EU nationals living in Britain would go live from the second half of next year. Those who qualify for settled status, giving them the indefinite right to live in Britain, will have to demonstrate five years’ continuous residence and pass a criminal record test.
The immigration minister also defended the increasing pace of deportation of EU nationals from Britain since the referendum, saying “it is good news for the British public because we should be doing everything to remove foreign national offenders”. He said a court case this week would clarify the legality of deportation of rough sleepers who are EU nationals.
The full details of the settled status application process will be published after Christmas but the immigration minister made clear to the Lords justice committee that proof of continuous residence was likely to be provided by checks with HMRC/DWP databases for those applicants who have worked in Britain.
The details of the Brexit deal announced last Friday include agreement with the EU that the cost of a settled status application will be no more than the current cost of a British passport: £72. It also spelled out that the hundreds of thousands of EU nationals who had already successfully applied for UK permanent residence documents would not be charged a further fee when they converted to “settled status”.
Those whose applications are rejected will have a right of appeal, with the final decision to be taken by the British courts. The UK courts will follow EU case law in the run-up to Brexit and will take account of the views of the European court of justice on citizens’ rights for up to eight years afterwards.
Lewis confirmed to peers that the Home Office’s default position would be to grant settled status applications. “The only circumstances in which they will be refused is either the criminal record check shows they are a criminal and if somebody who tries to claim they are an EU citizen and they are not, ie a fraudulent application,” he said.
He confirmed that the current requirements to secure permanent residency status in Britain, including a requirement for comprehensive sickness insurance, would not apply in the new process. Lewis said the application form should consist of six to eight questions rather than the current 85 pages and a decision should normally be provided within two weeks of it being submitted online. He compared it to the current online application process to renew a British passport.
The agreement reached on Friday also spelled out that a “proportionate approach” must be taken by those who failed to apply within the two-year deadline and that applications made by families together would be considered at the same time.