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Minister of State op-ed on the EU Settlement Scheme

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Today, the Minister of State for Security and Deputy for EU Exit and No Deal Preparation, Brandon Lewis wrote in the Guardian about the EU Settlement Scheme and the support available for EU citizens.

His words can be found below.

The Home Office’s message to EU citizens living here: we want you to stay

EU citizens are part of the fabric of the UK. They are our friends, our family, our colleagues.

Our country has been made all the richer for their contribution. Whether you are an Italian living in Manchester, a Pole in Leicester or a Portuguese national in my constituency of Great Yarmouth – you help to make our great country one of the most vibrant and diverse in the world.

It is for that reason that I want to address some of the concerns that have been raised by EU citizens and some of your readers in the last few weeks.

Britain is a democracy so we must deliver on the result of the referendum. But we must also protect the rights of those who will be more affected by us leaving.

We launched the EU Settlement Scheme to give EU citizens their rights in UK law and ensure that they can continue living in the UK after we leave the EU. It means that, now and in the future, EU citizens and their children will
have the evidence that they need to continue accessing and benefiting from services in the UK as they do now.

Applicants have three steps to complete: prove your identity, show that you live in the UK, and declare any criminal convictions. The process can be completed in as little as 15 minutes.

The scheme is off to a strong start with our latest internal figures showing that over 1.4 million people have applied, and our caseworkers are currently processing up to 20,000 applications a day. It is a genuinely simple system and our approach is to look for reasons to grant status.

And there’s plenty of time to apply to the scheme – until 31 December 2020 at least– but we’re keen to get everyone on board as soon as possible.

But I want to explicitly address some of the concerns that we have seen reported.

Free movement in its current form is ending but if you are an EU citizen living in the UK who has made your life here your rights are protected. You will still be able to work and access services and benefits as you do now. It’s a digital status – so it can’t be lost or stolen.

And this week we announced our immigration policy for EU citizens moving to the UK after 31 October in a no deal. So for EU citizens living here now nothing will change. Employers won’t need to differentiate between those here now and those arriving after Brexit until the new immigration system begins in 2021.

There has also been concern about pre-settled status. Let me be clear – granting of pre-settled status is not a refusal. Pre-settled status is a UK immigration status and it protects in UK law the current rights you have under EU law. As we always promised, for those with pre-settled status they can then apply for settled status once they have been in the country for five years. This is consistent with current EU rules for permanent residence.

As part of the application, we’ve made it easier than previous immigration routes to prove that you live here. This means you can provide your National Insurance number and then we can check your records against government systems. This works for the vast majority of cases.

But if you feel you are eligible for settled status, you will always be offered the opportunity to submit more evidence. We will always work with you to get the status you are eligible for – our caseworkers are on hand to help and are always looking for reasons to grant status.

You can prove your identity digitally, by sending in your ID card or passport which will usually be returned in a week or by visiting one of 80 scanning centres. More than three quarters of applicants are choosing to use a specially created app to prove their identity. It’s available on Android and we will roll out an Apple version in October once the technology is available.

And I would encourage anyone who needs help to call our dedicated helpline on 0300 123 7379. It’s open seven days a week and there are hundreds of staff standing by.

We’re also investing in the scheme to make sure nobody is left behind – least of all those hardest to reach. That’s why we’ve given £9 million to 57 voluntary organisations across the country.

These organisations – like the East European Resource Centre in Hammersmith and the Migrant Centre in Birmingham – provide tailored assistance to vulnerable EU citizens. They will help ensure that everyone has what they need to apply, whether they are older people without access to computers or those who struggle with English.

And for those who just want a friendly face to help them through the process, there are over 300 centres across the UK for people to access this kind of support.

And today I will be hosting my own outreach event for EU citizens in my constituency. These events are intended to provide information and support and will be replicated across the country by my team.

Our EU citizens are among the business leaders that make the UK a hub for global commerce. They work in our frontline services, keeping us safe and looking after those who are sick.

Our message could not be more clear: we want you to stay.

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