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Praise for EU settled status scheme following review of pilot phase
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Praise for EU settled status scheme following review of pilot phase

The immigration inspector has praised the Home Office for its work on the EU Settlement Scheme for European citizens applying to stay in the UK after Brexit.

A new report by the Independent Chief Inspector of Borders and Immigration says that the department was “largely justified” in describing the pilot phase of the scheme as a success. David Bolt also praised the staff involved, whose attitudes (and even attire) were in marked contrast to the usual immigration personnel:

Without exception, they were enthusiastic about their work and morale was obviously high. Everyone said that they were committed to providing a ‘world class customer service’ and were clear that the aim was to ensure that the decision the applicant received was ‘right first time’.

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It may be significant that most were “new to the Home Office”.

Mr Bolt also said that “the EU Settlement Scheme stands out as having been afforded the preparation time, resources and organisational priority to succeed”. This is explicitly contrasted with other areas of the Home Office’s work. Those who read Darren’s piece today exposing widespread administrative failure in the visa system will wonder why only one group of immigrants deserve a halfway decent service.

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There are considerable caveats. The inspection was only looking at the main pilot phase of the scheme in November and December 2018. Around 30,000 peopleapplied during this phase, a small proportion of the 600,000 that have applied to date. Nor did the inspectors look at how any individual applications for settled status were handled.

Future inspections are likely to range more widely. Under the draft Brexit deal (the one dying a lingering death in Parliament), there is supposed to be an independent monitoring authority to make sure the Home Office is awarding settled status properly. But unless the deal is passed, there is no obligation on the government to set one up — so Mr Bolt’s office has been given the oversight job. This will include “monitoring the numbers of applications, processing times, outcomes, details of engagement with stakeholders and evidence of continued governance of the project”.

The chief inspector has put out a call for evidence for his next settled status inspection, with a deadline of 31 May 2019.

CJ McKinney

CJ is Free Movement's deputy editor.

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