European Union citizens living in Britain can begin registering from this autumn for a post-Brexit settlement scheme, ministers said Thursday as they vowed to make the process as simple as possible.
Almost four million EU nationals currently live in Britain with no restrictions under the bloc's freedom of movement laws, but this will end with Brexit when they must apply for a new status.
Unveiling new details of the plan, interior minister Sajid Javid said applicants could use a new mobile phone app to register -- although he admitted it did not yet work on Apple iPhones.
The process will be ‘as simple as people can reasonably expect’, he told a House of Lords committee, ‘starting in the autumn’.
Applicants will only have to prove their identity, that they live in Britain and that they have no serious criminal convictions -- there will be no minimum income requirement.
Javid said the expectation would be that everyone was eligible, saying: ‘We will not be looking for reasons, excuses, not to grant status.’
The government agreed with Brussels in December that EU citizens and their relatives could stay after Brexit, but many complain that their future remains uncertain.
Starting with some cases later this year, the application process should be fully underway before Britain formally leaves the EU in March 2019.
However, freedom of movement will continue during an implementation period that ends in December 2020.
Europeans who have lived in Britain for five years by that point will be eligible for ‘settled status’, granting them indefinite leave to remain.
Newer arrivals will register for pre-settled status, which will allow them to stay until they are eligible for settled status.
Javid admitted that registering everyone in time was a ‘challenge’, saying his department's casework team would increase from 700 to over 1,500 people.
The ministry also confirmed that carers, stay-at-home parents, retired people and students were all eligible, while the cost will be similar to that of a passport, £65 (74 euros, $86).
Immigration minister Caroline Nokes added: ‘EU citizens make a huge contribution to our economy and to our society. They are our friends, family and colleagues and we want them to stay.
‘This is an important step which will make it easy for EU citizens to get the status they need to continue working and living here.’
She and Javid said they now wanted to hear more about arrangements for an estimated one million British nationals living in other EU countries.
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