A LOT of rubbish is talked about what will happen after Brexit.
And unfortunately, the future of EU citizens has fallen victim to some inaccurate, sensationalist scaremongering.
Critics say there is a “toxic narrative” around immigration, promoted by the Home Office.
They claim we don’t value EU citizens, that we are making it hard for them to stay and that we are even denying them an immigration status.
The reality is that none of this is true. So let me lay out the facts, loud and clear.
EU citizens have made a huge contribution to this country and will play a key role in cementing Britain’s status as an outward-looking, global leader after Brexit.
That is why we want EU citizens who have made the UK their home to stay. Our EU Settlement Scheme allows them to do that.
It provides an immigration status under UK law and ensures they can continue to live their lives as they currently do.
It means that whether it is in four or 40 years’ time, EU citizens currently living here and their children will have the evidence they need to prove they can access our NHS and any other services and benefits they have already been using, just like Brits.
So it has been disappointing to see some political leaders in Europe — such as Guy Verhofstadt, the Brexit co-ordinator for the European Parliament — repeating some of the myths around our offer. The facts are:
- Unlike most EU member states, our scheme fully opened in March, it is free, and whatever happens, EU citizens have until at least December 2020 to apply.
- Internal figures show that more than 1.7million people have applied and almost 1.5million have already got a British immigration status. We are processing up to 20,000 applications a day.
- It is a scheme designed from scratch and is in fact more generous than what we agreed with the EU.
- By the end of August only one person had been refused, and that person had a history of serious criminality. Sun readers would expect that we do not allow serious criminals to stay.
- No one that has lived here legally is being denied status.
The scheme is designed to be simple and only includes three key steps — to prove they are who they say they are, to prove that they live in the UK and to inform us whether they have a criminal record.
Like the current EU system, applicants need to have lived in the UK for five years before they can get the status for them to live here permanently.
For those who haven’t, we are giving them some-thing called pre-settled status, so they can build up five years.
They still have the same access to benefits and services as they do now.
But it is only right where someone who has not come up automatically on our government systems, for whatever reason, that we ask them to give us more evidence that they have lived here for five years — you would expect us to do so.
But I understand this can be frustrating for people and there are plenty of reasons why someone might not come up on our records.
Let me be clear, it is not a rejection. It might be that they have their maiden name on their tax records and not on their application, or if someone is self-employed that their tax returns only go up to last year.
NO STONE LEFT UNTURNED
So we are making it as simple as possible for those who have every right to settled status to prove it.
They can show things such as phone bills, bank statements and even a letter from the doctor.
A dedicated team is on the end of the phone to help people from the start to finish in their application to get the status they are entitled to.
The help centre is open seven days a week and they are doing a great job.
We have put in place an army of voluntary organisations and charities right across the UK to help us spread the word to those who are harder to reach, such as the elderly or those who have suffered from domestic abuse.
With the help of these organisations, local authorities and businesses, we are making sure no stone is left unturned and that EU citizens living here have the certainty and security they need.
This includes setting out the rules for EU citizens arriving after October 31 if we don’t get a deal.
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Under these rules, EU citizens can continue to come to the UK to work and study; and they provide our businesses, universities and public services certainty that they will still have the people they need.
So I find it hard to stomach when EU leaders lecture us on what we are doing for EU citizens when we have people getting the status and reassurance they need.
We have been clear that they are part of our future and have acted on it. Now it is time for the EU to step up and match this offer for Brits.
How can you apply for 'settled status' in the UK?
EU nationals will have to apply through the Home Office for a residency document over a two-year window.
They will have to answer three “simple” questions.
Home Secretary Sajid Javid said the government’s “default” position would be to grant, not refuse, settled status.
Applicants will be asked to prove their ID, whether they have criminal convictions and whether they live in the UK.
Their answers will be checked against government databases and they should receive a decision within a fortnight.
People will be able to apply online and over a smartphone app.
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