The EU Settlement Scheme for registering Europeans who want to stay legally in the UK after Brexit will sign people up alphabetically, according to a news report today. “Multiple sources” have told the website Business Insider that
under a confidential plan being discussed by senior officials, caseworkers would process European applicants in “bite-sized chunks” in alphabetical order based on the first letter of their surname for the final phase of the process.
The Home Office has been saying for some time that the Settlement Scheme will be opened on a “phased basis” between 28 August 2018 (when the first pilot begins) and 30 March 2019 (when the post-Brexit transition period begins, assuming there is a deal at all). As Nath says in her settled status explainer, it was never 100% clear on what basis the department proposed to stagger the applications. Alphabetically seems as good as any other, frankly, if that is what’s envisaged.
Extensive testing of the scheme makes eminent sense, given that around 3.5 million people will be eligible to apply. The first pilot will involve just 4,000 people from a dozen universities and hospitals in the north west of England. Changes to the Immigration Rules come into force for that purpose on 28 August.
At some point, though — the Home Office says no later than 30 March next year — the scheme will be “fully open” to all EU citizens in the UK. The nightmare scenario for officials is an almighty surge of applications right at the beginning of general operations which overwhelms caseworkers, destroys the advertised “within a few days” timeline for a decision, and damages what confidence exists in the process. Campaign group the3million continues to fret about the “unprecedented scale and timeframe for the scheme”.
More details on the scheme as and when they are confirmed.
Update: the Home Office flatly denies the Business Insider story. “It is not true to suggest that the Scheme will open on an alphabetical basis”. It is still talking generically about a “phased roll-out”, with no further information given about how the phasing will work.