Tomorrow the EU Settlement Scheme will officially open. It is a free and simple service to help EU citizens get the immigration status they need to remain in Scotland and continue their lives as before.
Over the last few months, more than 200,000 people have applied during testing and we have engaged with the Scottish Government to make sure it works for all of the UK.
We check just three things – identity, criminality and residency – and it is working well.
During testing, almost four out of five people didn’t have to provide any additional documentation. In fact, I spoke to one Portuguese citizen who received status within just three hours of applying.
We are making full use of modern technology to keep things simple. Confirmation of settled status will be stored digitally rather than having to worry about losing pieces of paper.
Biometric identity documents such as passports can be scanned straight away on a smartphone app. If you prefer, you can take your passport to offices in Edinburgh, Cumnock, Livingston or Kilmarnock. You are also welcome to send in a passport or ID card by post.
As Immigration Minister, I have been keen to ensure the scheme is accessible to all. The Home Office has set aside up to £9 million in funding for organisations to support vulnerable people to make an application.
Those without access to a computer, or lacking skills or confidence to use one, will be able to get assistance for free in many places across Scotland.
We understand that people will have questions about their applications, so we have created a new Settlement Resolution Centre and put in place 1,500 operational staff to process applications.
There are more than 3.5 million EU citizens living in the UK, including over 180,000 people who have made their home in Scotland.
They come from a rich tapestry of countries including Poland, France, Latvia, Romania and Germany, and they have settled far and wide across this nation.
They, like many others, have played a fundamental role in Scotland’s cultural and economic prosperity by building communities around them, supporting Scotland’s thriving industries and integrating into Scottish life.
My message is clear – we want you to stay regardless of the UK’s future relationship with the EU. You are our friends, family and neighbours.
You have contributed so much to our society and our economy. That is why our first priority in the Brexit negotiations was to secure your rights.
We are working hard to spread the word far and wide. This week I launched a multi-million pound advertising campaign to promote the scheme in 6,000 places including in towns and cities across Scotland.
You can help to spread the word too. If you know an EU citizen, tell them to visit gov.uk/eusettlementscheme for more information on the scheme and how to apply. I am confident that this scheme will provide them with the certainty they need.
As we leave the EU, our relationship with Europe will undoubtedly change. However, through the EU Settlement Scheme, I will ensure that European citizens can continue to live their lives in Scotland as before, long after we have left the EU.
The Rt Hon Caroline Nokes MP is Minister of State for Immigration