I am immensely proud that just a few months into the EU Settlement Scheme more than 800,000 people have applied and, as the home secretary confirmed last week, almost 700,000 have been granted status.
It shows how well the scheme is performing. It’s free and means that EU citizens and their families only need to complete three key steps – prove their identity, show that they live in the UK, and declare any criminal convictions.
As Chetal Patel wrote last week in Personnel Today, companies can play a vital role in supporting their staff. Two thirds of EU citizens here in the UK are here for work, which means HR professionals and business leaders are uniquely placed to support EU citizens.
This is why we launched a multi-million-pound marketing campaign and created an employer’s toolkit that provides employers with the right tools and information to support staff.
And businesses are already playing their part. Companies like Staffline – one of the largest recruiters in the UK – have set up ID document checking facilities at their 450 sites across the UK. Elsewhere, PizzaExpress has polled its 11,000 strong team to ask what level of support they need so it can learn how best to guide its teams through the process.
Media agency MediaCom is running special support sessions which have been attended by 90% of all of its EU staff based in the UK. They have said the scheme is well supported by the government groups leading it.
I am really grateful to these companies who are sending a clear message – EU citizens are our colleagues, they are valued, and we want them to stay.
While it’s great that businesses are supporting their employees, it’s important that support and guidance is readily available. I visited the Settlement Resolution Centre in Liverpool last month and also saw the 1,500 dedicated Home Office staff helping to grant status and it’s really pleasing to see that the vast majority of people applying have found the scheme easy.
During the public testing phase of our Android app, 95% of applicants were able to prove their identity remotely, meaning they did not have to send in their passport or ID document. We are also working very closely with Apple to make sure the app functions on their devices later this year.
It’s part of our move to a more digital system. While I understand paper documents may provide peace of mind, they can be lost, stolen or tampered with. A digital status will make it simpler and faster for employers to carry out right-to-work checks on prospective employees and for individuals to demonstrate their right to work, housing and benefits in the future.
We live in a digital age and immigration systems across the world are moving online. I think it is right the EU Settlement Scheme embraces it.
I also want to address some other concerns about the scheme and to provide clarity. It has been suggested that handing over a national insurance number – which is optional – could lead to a tax enquiry in the future, but this is not the case at all. Checking your residence against UK tax and some benefits records is about saving people time and hassle. During public testing around 75% of people were able to confirm their residence this way and therefore did not have to send any further evidence.
We have always been clear that in some cases, for example where a serious criminal conviction is involved, we may refuse those applications. However, during testing, which involved more than 200,000 applications, there were no refusals at all. People should feel confident in making an application to the scheme.
Let me be clear, our starting position is that we are looking for reasons to grant people status because we want everyone to receive the status they are eligible for.
I would encourage people who want to find out more, including the support available, to visit the EU Settlement Scheme website.