The Home Office hopes to start testing an online platform with a small number of real cases from the end of the summer ahead of a phased roll-out later this year.
Ministers yesterday released details on the settlement scheme for EU migrants seeking to stay in the UK after the post-Brexit implementation period ends on 31 December 2020.
Applicants will have to pay £65, which is the same as the existing fee for a permanent residence document and £10.50 cheaper than the minimum for a standard British passport.
The fee will be £32.50 for children under the age of 16 and free of charge for those who already have permanent residence documents.
A small number of applications will be run through the system to test that it works effectively in a private “beta” phase. There will then be a phased roll-out from late 2018.
The Home Office said the scheme would be open “fully” by 30 March – the day after Britain officially departs the EU bloc. The final deadline for applications is the end of June 2021.
EU citizens and family members who have been in the UK for five years by the end of 2020 will be able to apply for “settled status”, meaning they are free to go on living and working in the UK indefinitely.
Those who have arrived by 31 December 2020, but do not have five years’ residence can seek to stay until they have, at which point they can seek settled status.
While the Government’s aim is for the applications to be turned around in a fortnight, officials are hopeful answers could be given well within that timeframe.
Publishing a “statement of intent” on the arrangements, Home Secretary Sajid Javid said: “Throughout, we will be looking to grant, not for reasons to refuse.
“I do not underestimate the scale of the challenge, but the Home Office already issues around seven million passports and three million visas each year, and so processing applications on the scale required is not new to us.”
Applicants will submit their request for settled or pre-settled status using an online platform. They will be asked to prove their identity with a passport or ID card, declare any criminal convictions and upload a facial photograph.
The Home Office will check employment and benefits data to confirm proof of residence. All applications will be run through UK criminality and security databases.
Overseas criminal records can be checked in cases flagged up for concern.
The same test now used to determine whether an individual can be deported because of criminal conduct will be applied.