Earlier this year we reported on The Institute for Government, a group of academics and experts, releasing a paper entitled 'Implementing Brexit: Immigration' which urged the government to accept that a new immigration system would not be ready by the time the UK leaves the European Union (EU) in April 2019.
Last week two former immigration officials echoed that argument when they told the Home Affairs Committee that, even with current staffing levels of around 6,500 caseworkers, the Home Office would not be able to meet the bureaucratic challenges posed by Brexit.
However, the Home Secretary yesterday outlined her plans to deal with the logistical challenges and announced that, in addition to the 700 extra caseworkers already recruited, an additional 500 would be hired before April, in order to deal with the expected application rush. Other measures include:
a bespoke online system, to be up and running by the end of 2018, designed to confer "settled status" on EU residents;
a new form designed specifically for EU nationals to replace the current permanent residence application form;
accepting applications will be the "default position", unless they raise concerns over fraud or criminality;
automatic links with HMRC and the Department for Work and Pensions, aimed at streamlining the process and easing the pressure on applicants;
300 border staff being hired to cope with customs and border checks in the event that no deal over immigration can be reached; and
additional funding from the Treasury to cover the extra costs of registering EU nationals already in the UK.
While it is clear that the Home Office is actively looking at ways to address the potential immigration challenges in advance of leaving the EU, EU citizens currently in the UK still face uncertainties regarding their immigration status post Brexit and we will be releasing regular updates as negotiations continue. We will provide more information on the bespoke online system as soon as it becomes available.