We understand that the Home Office is currently running a pilot scheme designed to speed up applications for permanent residence from EU citizens by offering an online form for applications.
The current application process requires applicants to complete an 85-page paper form, which most applicants find confusing. This often leads to many otherwise correct applications being refused due to applicants mistakenly applying under the wrong category on the form. The process also requires the applicant to post the paper form by special delivery with personal documents, such as their passport.
In addition, applications for permanent residence from EU nationals are currently taking 6 months to be processed. As a result, the Migration Observatory has estimated that it would take 140 years to register all 3.5 million EU citizens in Britain at current rates of processing, if they were all to apply. We understand that the new system would allow applications to be processed at a faster rate, which will be welcome news for those seeking to apply.
The pilot scheme comes as a result of the “Brexit” vote, although anyone who has made a permanent residence application is likely to tell you that a faster process has been sorely needed for some time. Fears of a post-Brexit EU immigration clampdown have prompted many EU nationals in the UK to apply for permanent residence in an effort to secure their right to live and work in the UK post-Brexit. This has increased the pressure on an already strained and outdated system of processing and it seems the Home Office is taking steps to address this and prepare for further increases in applications over the coming months.
It is not yet clear whether the system, when it becomes publicly available, will be restricted to permanent residence applications, or whether it will extend to initial residence applications, and whether family members of EU nationals will also be able to make their applications using the new system.
The public launch is expected to take place later this year when we will provide a further update.