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EU settlement scheme applications pass 750,000 mark

By Hayden Smith, Press Association Home Affairs Correspondent

More than three-quarters of a million people have applied to secure their post-Brexit status in the UK, the Home Office has disclosed.

The number of applications to the Government's EU settlement scheme passed the 750,000 mark in recent days.

Official figures show that, as of the end of last month, more than 100,000 Poles had applied - the highest of any nationality.

Home Secretary Sajid Javid said: "EU citizens are our friends, neighbours and colleagues who contribute so much to this country. Whatever the outcome of Brexit, we want them to stay.

"Our free and straightforward EU Settlement Scheme has already seen 750,000 applications - which is immensely encouraging.

"I hope this early success continues in the coming months."

As well as EU nationals, the scheme is open to citizens of Iceland, Liechtenstein and Norway, which are in the European Economic Area (EEA) but not EU member states, as well as those from Switzerland. Non-EEA family members can also apply.

Successful applicants are granted immigration status confirming their right to continue living and working in the UK indefinitely.

People who have lived continuously in the country for five years can obtain settled status.

Those with less than five years' residence can acquire pre-settled status, which can later be converted into settled status.

Following three trial phases, the scheme went fully live at the end of March.

New statistics published on Thursday show that 389,900 applications were received in the first month following the full launch.

This took the total number, including those registered during the test stages, to 621,400 as of the end of April. Of those, 445,000 had been "concluded".

In about two-thirds (67%), the applicant was granted settled status, with one in three given pre-settled status.

In 0.1% of concluded applications, there were "other outcomes", according to the Home Office report.

This category covers any outcome that did not result in a grant of leave because the application was withdrawn by the applicant, was invalid as it did not include the required proof of identity and nationality or other mandatory information, or was void because the applicant was ineligible to apply, for example because they were a British citizen.

Poles accounted for the largest number of applications, with 103,200 in total as of the end of last month, followed by Romanian (89,800) and Italian (70,800) nationals.

Slovenia and Luxembourg had the lowest numbers of applicants of EU states, with 700 and 200 respectively.

The majority of applications were received from England (573,600), with 31,400 from Scotland, 9,300 from Wales and 6,500 from Northern Ireland.

Maike Bohn, co-founder of campaign organisation the3million, which represents EU citizens living in the UK, said the rate of applications so far is "encouraging".

She said: "We expected a surge of applications at the beginning and the Government must now maintain this pace.

"If the Government fails to keep up the current application rate, we and other NGOs predict that hundreds of thousands of EU citizens will lose their legal rights to stay in the UK on June 2021."

Shadow home secretary Diane Abbott said: "It is extraordinarily complacent for any government minister to congratulate themselves on the operation of the settlement scheme.

"There are millions of EU citizens in the UK but, by the time of the original Brexit date, not only had a mere fraction of them been registered, but the total number of applications that had been received was still in the low hundreds of thousands."

Government estimates indicate that between 3.5 million and 4.1 million European Economic Area citizens and their family members could be eligible to apply to the scheme by the end of 2020.

Applicants are asked to prove their identity, declare any criminal convictions and upload a facial photograph.

Officials check employment and benefits data to confirm proof of residence and all applications are run through UK criminality and security databases.

The deadline for applying will be June 30 2021 in a deal departure, or December 31 2020 if the UK leaves without a deal.

The figures were released as the Commons Home Affairs Committee published a report warning that the Government risks a repeat of the Windrush scandal unless it addresses "serious concerns" about the settlement scheme.

However, the Home Office said it disagreed with the committee's assessment, insisting the scheme is performing well.