Securing the rights of citizens has always been our priority in negotiations with the European Union (EU). We have delivered on this commitment and reached an agreement with the EU guaranteeing the rights of EU citizens living in the UK and of UK nationals living in the EU. EU citizens living in the UK, along with their family members, will be able to stay and continue their lives, with the same access to work, study, benefits and public services that they enjoy now. Existing close family members living overseas will be able to join them here in future.

I am delighted to be publishing further details about how our EU Settlement Scheme will work and how simple and straightforward it will be for EU citizens and their families to secure their long-term status in the UK.

To obtain settled status EU citizens will generally need simply to have lived continuously in the UK for five years. This means for example that stay-at-home parents, retired people and students can all be eligible. Those with less than five years’ continuous residence will be granted pre-settled status and be able to apply for settled status once they reach the five-year point.

The new application system will be streamlined and user-friendly and draw on existing government data, to minimise the burden on applicants to provide evidence of their residence. This streamlined process will take applicants through three simple stages: proving their identity, checking they are not a serious criminal, and evidencing their residence in the UK.

To make the process as simple as possible for the great majority of EU citizens, we will check employment and benefits records for proof of residence. Applicants who wish to submit additional evidence will be able to provide a wide range of documentation, reflecting the variety of people’s individual circumstances, and they will generally be able to upload scans or photos rather than sending us hard copies. We will work with applicants to help them avoid any errors or omissions, and we will work with longer-term residents without official documentation to establish their eligibility under the scheme from the material they have. For those who wish to complete the application entirely online, we will also have an optional app which will allow EU citizens to verify their identity.

Throughout, we will be looking to grant, not for reasons to refuse, and caseworkers will be able to exercise discretion in favour of applicants where appropriate, to minimise administrative burdens.

Applications will cost £65 and be half that cost for children under 16. The process will be particularly straightforward for those who already hold a valid permanent residence or indefinite leave to remain document, which they will be able to swap for settled status free of charge.

EU citizens and their family members do not need to do anything immediately: there will be no change to their current rights until the end of the implementation period on 31 December 2020, and the deadline for applications to the scheme for those resident here by the end of 2020 will be 30 June 2021.

The EU Settlement Scheme will be opening from later this year and we continue to engage closely with EU citizens about its design through working groups, our direct mailing list and ongoing community engagement.

I do not underestimate the scale of the challenge, but the Home Office already issues around seven million passports and three million visas each year and so processing applications on the scale required is not new to us. As is now standard for the launch of new services in government, there will be a private beta phase to enable us to test the system and processes at scale so we can ensure that they work effectively, followed by a phased roll-out from late 2018. We will set out further details of this over the summer. The scheme will be open fully by 30 March 2019.

This publication marks an important point in our preparations for the scheme. We will be seeking comments from the user groups we have established to help us develop the scheme and from other stakeholders on the details set out here. We look forward to hearing their views and will make improvements where we can.

We will also continue to expand our wider communications to ensure that EU citizens and their family members living in the UK are aware of the EU Settlement Scheme and our plans for how it will operate, but are also reassured that, in line with our agreement with the EU, they will have plenty of time in which to apply for status.

The agreement we reached with the EU also protects UK nationals living there. The Government continues to press for further details from our EU partners of the arrangements that will be in place for UK nationals.

Rt Hon Sajid Javid MP

Home Secretary