The Home Office is reported to be testing a new online fast track application process for EU migrants in the UK. The Financial Times first carried the story but it was also picked up and confirmed by The Guardian.
In summary, the new fast track application process is said to apply to permanent residence applications, it is being tested with 20 hand picked corporate partners including Deloitte and PwC over the next fortnight and the test is to seek feedback and identify any problems in the system. There is little detail on what the process actually involves, but the FT says:
Officials have told the companies involved in the trial that internet clients can expect a system which is “faster, easier and more intuitive” than the current service.
A government spokesman told The Guardian:
We are currently testing an online service which simplifies the process by allowing some EEA nationals to submit electronic applications.
The full launch of the service is said to be planned for “later this year.”
Whether the final version will be restricted to permanent residence applications by EU nationals is unknown. We do not know whether it will also be extended to family members from outside the EU who qualify for permanent residence or to initial residence applications by relatively new arrivals or long term residents from the EU who do not qualify for permanent residence, for example because they are self sufficient but lack comprehensive sickness insurance.
A swifter and simpler application process is essential, both for applicants who are having to wait for months for decisions and for the Home Office, which has a gargantuan task ahead of it to register over 3 million EU nationals estimated currently to be living in the UK.
The prospect of a new simpler, faster process raises the question of whether EU nationals should press ahead now and make an application using the current complex and slow system or should hold off in the hope that things will get better later. I simply do not have an answer to that question, but in common with other lawyers I would urge EU migrants and family members to at the very least get their documents in order to prove their right of residence. Realistically, the only way to do that is to put together at least a mock application.
An EU migrant with a clearly documented record of five years of employment will have little difficulty proving their right of residence and the paperwork will be quite straightforward. I would guess that such cases will be highly suited to the new online process. A student, self employed or self sufficient person might well have difficulty producing the list of documents suggested by the Home Office and should therefore consider their position very carefully as soon as possible so that they can at least sort themselves out and put themselves on the road to permanent residence now if they do not currently qualify.
If I hear more, I will of course post details on Free Movement. In the meantime, if you need more information on applying for permanent residence see this earlier blog post or my full ebook on EU residence applications. If you need an application checking by a lawyer before you send it, we offer an application checking service via Free Movement.