PM waives fee for settled status applications

Process for EU nationals to apply to remain in the UK will now be free

Credit: Andrew Matthews/PA Wire/PA Images

Prime minister Theresa May has announced that the government will cancel plans to charge a £65 fee for EU nationals to apply for settled status in the UK.

In a statement to the House of Commons this week, the prime minister (pictured above) said that she had listened to concerns from MPs and civil society groups that the fee could create a barrier for EU nationals to apply to stay in the UK after Brexit.

Previously, the government had said EU nationals would need to pay the full fee, or £32.50 for children, to gain settled status, which is available to those have lived continuously in the UK for five years.

The fee was intended to part fund the cost of the Home Office settled status scheme. However, May announced that the fee will now be scrapped entirely when the programme to register is launched in full at the end of March – and anyone who has applied during the pilot scheme will have their fee repaid.

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The government has been criticised for the fact that, to apply digitally, EU citizens require access to an Android device. Advice published on GOV.UK instructs users who do not own any such devices that “you can use someone else’s phone or tablet” to apply.

The pilot scheme, which was open to EU citizens employed in social care, NHS, and higher education, did not accept postal submissions of documents. For those wishing to take part but without access to an Android phone or tablet, the government set up 13 document-scanning locations – although some parts of the country were more than 250 miles away from any of these.

The app’s incompatibility with iPhones hinges on its need to access a device’s near-field communication capability. Apple has previously prevented third-party applications from accessing NFC.

The Home Office is understood to have engaged with the tech firm to try and find a solution, with home secretary Sajid Javid even having met with top executives at Apple’s California headquarters, according to a BBC report.

PublicTechnology has contacted Apple and the Home Office to enquire as to whether any update is available.

Announcing the cancellation of the £65 fee, the PM acknowledged that there had been “anxieties facing EU citizens in the UK and UK citizens in the EU who are waiting to have their status confirmed”.

“We have already committed to ensuring that EU citizens in the UK will be able to stay, and to continue to access in-country benefits and services on broadly the same terms as now, in both a deal and a no deal scenario,” she told MPs.

May added: “Indeed, the next phase of testing of the scheme for EU nationals to confirm their status has launched today. And having listened to concerns from members – and organisations like the 3 Million group [that campaigns for the rights of EU nationals in the UK] – I can confirm today that when we roll out the scheme in full on 30 March, the government will waive the application fee so that there is no financial barrier for any EU nationals who wish to stay.”

Sam Trendall

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