Fri 8 Mar 2019
Media blitz will tell EU citizens how to register for settled status after Brexit
EU citizens holding up a banner after lobbying MPs to guarantee their post-Brexit rights at the Houses of Parliament in London. Photograph: Stefan Rousseau/PA
Lisa O’Carroll Brexit correspondent
The government is to launch a multimillion-pound advertising campaign in the next fortnight aimed at EU citizens who will need to register to remain in the country after Brexit.
The launch will coincide with a national rollout of a “settled status” phone app that has been in testing for the past six months.
The Home Office is working on a £3.75m media blitz involving billboards and newspaper, radio and TV adverts in a multitude of languages to alert those who do not already know of the need to register within the next two years.
A spokesman said the adverts would “encourage” EU citizens to register, which will be necessary whatever the outcome of next week’s crunch votes on Brexit. If there is a deal the cut-off point for registrations will be 30 June 2021 and 31 December 2020 if there is no deal.
“Public information will continue throughout the lifetime of the scheme, alongside direct work with employers, local authorities and voluntary and community organisations,” said the spokesman.
There are estimated to be 3.8 million EU citizens settled in the UK. So far 150,000 have applied for settled status during a three-phase trial of the phone app that has been running since September.
The Home Office said 135,000 of these cases had already been concluded, of which 71% were granted settled status and the rest granted pre-settled status, with none refused.
The immigration minister, Caroline Nokes, said: “The government therefore intends to go ahead as planned with the full opening of the EU settlement scheme from 30 March.” A full report on the trial will be published on that date.
It is understood that 75% of applicants did not have to provide any supplementary documents to prove their status and 95% used the phone app rather than the post to get their passport or ID document verified
The government has described the application process as simple and fast, with 75% of resolved cases receiving their decision within three days of applying, and 80% saying they found the application easy to complete.
The Home Office is still facing criticism that older people and other vulnerable groups who are not tech savvy may not be able to complete the process using a phone app.
It was also criticised when it emerged that the ID verification process did not work on iPhones, leading to ridicule when the Home Office said people could borrow a friend’s phone to complete the application.
Sources in the Home Office have confirmed that they hope to have struck a deal with Apple to access its “near field recognition” technology within months.
The rolling out of the registration scheme will not be affected by the outcome of the Brexit negotiations as the Home Office has said EU citizens who are already in the country are entitled to stay if they register for settled status before the middle of 2021.
As part of the national rollout, the Home Office is extending the number of centres around the country that will check EU citizens’ passports from 17 to 50. It promised a “good geographical distribution”, with centres expected in areas with high numbers of EU citizens, including places such as Lincolnshire where farms rely heavily on Polish and Romanians for their harvest season.
According to Home Office guidance notes on ID documents, phone applicants will need to have an Android device with an operating system of 6.0 or later.