In order to test the EU Settlement Scheme application process, which must be capable of processing applications from millions of EU citizens and their family members, the Government has already carried out two test phases. By far the most significant test of the scheme will open on 21 January 2019 with the first public test phase. Carter Thomas associate Ruth Jowett looks at the next stage.
Phases 1 and 2 of the EU Settlement Scheme trial
The Home Office introduced its first testing phase of the new system in August 2018. Staff at three Liverpool-based Higher Education Institutions and 12 NHS trusts were invited to use the system to apply for settled or pre-settled status. The results from this initial test can be found here.
The second phase of testing commenced on 1 November 2018. This was made available to a wider group of potential applicants, notably those working in the higher education, health or social care sectors and children under the age of 18 being cared for by one of the local authorities involved in the pilot. The Home Office reported that more than 15,500 applications were made and more than 12,400 of these had been concluded by December 2018. We covered this here.
Public test phase
In its most recent Statement of Changes in Immigration Rules, published 20 December 2018, the Government laid out the latest legislation concerning the operation of the EU Settlement Scheme.
In the accompanying announcement it confirmed that from 21 January 2019, resident ‘EU citizens, as well as their non-EU citizen family members who hold a valid biometric residence card’ will be able to apply for the immigration status which they will be required to hold when the UK leaves the EU.
EU citizens who currently hold a national ID card but not a passport will not be able to apply during this test phase.
This does not mean that as of 21 January 2019 all EU citizens and their family members must apply under the scheme. The Immigration Minister, Caroline Nokes, confirmed in the announcement that:
“This is a completely voluntary test phase, which will give us valuable insight into how the system works and if any changes need to be made before the full launch.”
The Home Office also declared in its announcement that the feedback received from the first two phases of testing has been “positive”. It has confirmed that a full report on the results of the second private beta phase test will be published in January 2019.
The Government intends that the EU Settlement Scheme will be fully open by 30 March 2019.
Further information and assistance
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EU citizens and their family members living in the UK who may be concerned about Brexit from an immigration perspective are very welcome to contact us for information.