With permission, Mr Deputy Speaker, I would like to make a statement about the new settlement scheme for resident EU citizens and their family members.
Securing the rights of citizens has been our priority in negotiations with the European Union. We have delivered on this commitment and reached an agreement with the EU, which was published in March as a draft legal text. This guarantees the rights of EU citizens living in the UK and of UK nationals living in the EU. Under this agreement, EU citizens living in the UK, along with their family members, will be able to stay and continue their lives here, with the same access to work, study, benefits and public services that they enjoy now. Close family members living overseas will be able to join them here in future.
EU citizens make a huge contribution to our economy and to our way of life. They are our friends, our family and our colleagues, and we want them to stay. I am therefore delighted to be publishing today further details about the EU settlement scheme. This will provide the basis for EU citizens resident here, and their family members, to obtain their new UK immigration status, consistent with the draft withdrawal agreement. I will place in the Library of the House a statement of intent setting out in detail how the scheme will work, and how simple and straightforward it will be. The document includes a draft of the immigration rules for the scheme.
We will engage with our stakeholders on the details set out in the statement of intent. These include the user groups that we have established to help us develop the scheme, involving EU citizens’ representatives, embassies, employers and others. We look forward to hearing their views, and will make improvements where we can.
It will be straightforward for EU citizens residing in the UK to obtain status. If they have lived here continuously for five years, they will be eligible for settled status. Those who have lived here for less than five years will generally be granted pre-settled status and be able to apply for settled status once they reach the five-year point. Applicants will not need to show that they meet other detailed requirements of current free movement rules. This means, for example, that stay-at-home parents, retired people and students can all be eligible.
Irish citizens enjoy a right of residence in the UK that is not reliant on our membership of the EU. The Government are committed to protecting these rights, and are working closely with Ireland to maintain these bilateral arrangements for our respective citizens. Irish citizens will not need to apply for status under the scheme, but may elect to do so if they wish. Their family members who are not Irish citizens or British citizens will be able to obtain status under the scheme without the Irish citizen doing so.
Negotiations on similar agreements on citizens’ rights with the non-EU European economic area states and Switzerland are progressing. While the details of those agreements are being finalised, the statement of intent confirms that we intend that the settlement scheme will be open to other EEA citizens and Swiss citizens, and their family members, on a similar basis as for EU citizens.
The scheme set out in the statement of intent will deliver on our commitments to a straightforward process. We are designing the online application form so that it is short, simple and user-friendly. It will be accessible by computer, tablet or smartphone. Assistance will be available for those who need it to complete the online application process. The views of the user groups on the support that may be needed by vulnerable groups will help to ensure that we make the right additional provision for them, through the involvement of community groups and others.
There will be three core criteria that people will need to meet to be granted status under the EU settlement scheme: proving their identity, showing that they are resident in the UK, and declaring whether they have criminal convictions. First, applicants will need to prove their identity and nationality. For those who wish to complete the application entirely online, there will be an app that will allow EU citizens to confirm the relevant details remotely either using their own mobile phone or tablet, or at a location established for them to use the app or be helped to do so. Alternatively, they can send us their identity document by post, and a dedicated team will check this and return it to them as soon as possible.
Secondly we will establish that the applicant is resident in the UK and, where appropriate, their family relationship to an eligible EU citizen. Where possible, the application process will help the applicant to establish their continuous residence here, and whether it amounts to the five years generally required for settled status, on an automated basis using employment and benefit records. This will keep any documentary evidence the applicant is required to provide to a minimum. We recognise that some applicants may lack such evidence in their own name for various reasons, and we will work flexibly with applicants to help them evidence their continuous residence in the UK by the best means available to them.
Thirdly, we will check that the applicant is not a serious or persistent criminal and does not pose a security threat. It is right that we do what is needed to protect everyone who lives in the UK, but we are not concerned with minor offences, and these provisions will not affect the overwhelming majority of EU citizens and their family members.
Throughout the process, we will be looking to grant applications, not for reasons to refuse them, and caseworkers will be able to exercise discretion in favour of the applicant, where appropriate, to minimise administrative burdens. A range of user-friendly guidance and support, including a customer contact centre, will be in place to help applicants through the process.
Subject to parliamentary consideration of changes to the fees regulations, applications will cost £65, with a reduced fee of £32.50 for children under 16. There will be no fee for children in care. The process will be particularly straightforward for those who already hold a valid permanent residence or indefinite leave to remain document, which they will be able to swap for settled status free of charge. Those granted pre-settled status will be able to apply for settled status without paying a further fee.
EU citizens and their family members do not need to do anything immediately. There will be no change to their current rights until the end of the post-exit implementation period on
We plan to start opening the settlement scheme later this year. I do not underestimate the scale of the challenge in successfully processing what may exceed 3.5 million applications, but the Home Office already issues about 7 million passports and 3 million visas each year, so processing applications on the scale required is not new to us. As is now standard for the launch of new Government services, there will be a private beta phase from the summer to enable us to test the system and processes, followed by a phased roll-out from late 2018, so we can test them at scale and ensure that they work effectively. The scheme will be open fully by
The statement of intent I have published today marks an important point in our preparations for the EU settlement scheme, which will enable EU citizens and their family members to continue living here in much the same way as they do now. We have engaged with EU citizens at every stage of the development process, and will continue to do so. We will also continue to expand our communications to ensure that EU citizens are aware of the scheme and how it will operate, and to ensure that they are reassured that they will have plenty of time in which to apply for their new UK immigration status. The EU settlement scheme will provide a straightforward way of enabling those who have made their lives in the UK to stay here. We want them to do so. I commend this statement to the House.
I thank the Minister for advance sight of her statement. We, too, value the contribution of EU citizens as our friends, neighbours and colleagues. Their rights must be protected after Brexit. They have already waited two years from the Brexit vote to be given some assurance and guidance on their status in the UK. From speaking to EU citizens, I know that the stress and anxiety of not knowing if they will be allowed to remain and of not being able to start the process have been significant. There has been uncertainty for UK citizens in Europe as well. The Home Secretary criticised the EU27, but we were previously told this matter is for the future relationship. Which is it?
I have a number of questions for the Minister. First, may we have more details on the criteria for settled status? How will the rights of other EEA and Swiss citizens be enforced? On the criminal checks, what exactly will be the threshold, and how far back will offences be considered relevant? As we have seen with highly skilled migrants, the Government have been picking up on very minor tax errors to refuse applications. Will she confirm that this practice will stop, and that it will not apply to EU citizens? Which court will adjudicate when, inevitably, incorrect decisions are made in the processing of applications or when legal challenges are made to those decisions, and is that acceptable to the EU? For Irish citizens, the mixed messaging is concerning. They do not “have” to apply, but they could. Will the Minister clarify that?
My second point concerns how vulnerable people will be reached and protected. The Migration Observatory has identified a number of groups who may fall through the cracks of a settled status system, especially people who are older or disabled, and those with language barriers. What plans does the Minister have to identify and protect victims of domestic abuse who rely on their partner for status? We heard at the last Home Office questions that the UK Government had made contact with only two libraries in Scotland. Does the Minister have any advance on that number?
The Minister said that the scheme will be accessible by computer, tablet or smartphone, yet we heard this morning that it is still not working on iPhones. Will that be fixed, and will the system work on all tablets and computers? She said that locations will be established for people to use the app or be helped to do so. How many locations will there be, and what will be their geographical spread?
Thirdly, can the Department handle the demands of registering 3 million people? The Home Office has a 10% error rate in immigration status checks. Is the Minister confident that the system being introduced will be robust and efficient enough to deal with those applications, without it crashing or large numbers of incorrect decisions being made in the process? The Home Affairs Committee has outlined serious concerns that Brexit will drain resources from an already failing system. Are new staff being recruited from outside the Department or are they being reassigned? How long will they take to train, and how much experience will they have to deal with complex cases?
The Minister said that a dedicated customer contact centre will help people through the process. Has that centre been set up, and will it be staffed by Home Office or outsourced staff? Will information be passed to immigration enforcement if somebody discloses that they do not have the right to be in the UK legally? After Windrush and the 100 letters sent in error to EU citizens last year, many people are understandably nervous about coming forward, especially if they are vulnerable and/or afraid that they will not meet the criteria. Telling them that Home Office staff can exercise discretion will be of little comfort.
Fourthly, will the Minister commit to rolling back the hostile environment, so that another 3 million people are not subject to such unjustified and punitive policies? In the practical application of an ID scheme for upwards of 3 million residents of this country, how is it possible for authorities to insist on the production of ID by a minority of the population? Surely that will lead inevitably to a requirement for all citizens to carry ID. Finally, the Minister said that she will publish the draft immigration rules for the scheme. Should we still expect an immigration White Paper before the summer, and if so, what will be its scope? When will we get the Government’s proposals on the future of migration post-Brexit?
The hon. Gentleman has raised a large number of points, and alongside him I recognise that post referendum there have been anxieties for EU citizens living in the UK. That is why we are bringing forward details of the settled status scheme. We want to continue our work with—among others—the3million group, to allay those fears. It is crucial to me and the entire Government that we send the clear message that EU citizens living here are welcome. We recognise the contribution that they make to our communities, and we want them to stay. That is why we have brought forward details of the scheme, and I commend to the hon. Gentleman the statement of intent that contains many of those details.
The hon. Gentleman raised specific points about vulnerable people, and he was right to do so. We all have anxieties about the most vulnerable in our society, who may well need assistance. UK Visas and Immigration already has assisted digital schemes, and we want to roll those out to community groups and organisations that already work in local areas, so that support is there for people who may find a digital process difficult. He mentioned iPhones and the chip-checker. The digital application will be available on any computer, tablet or smartphone, but the chip-checker is currently available only on Android. I reassure the hon. Gentleman that the Home Secretary has recently raised that matter with Apple, because of course we would like the chip-checker to work on everything. There will, however, be facilities for those who wish to carry out the process on their smartphone—that process can be saved at every point, and people can then verify their documents in a contact centre or through many of the partner organisations with which we are currently working.
The hon. Gentleman rightly mentioned that 3.3 million EU citizens live in the UK. That is why we are moving to a private beta testing mode—we need assurance that the system will work, and then to have a phased roll-out. That is very important. We must also reflect that EU citizens have every right to be here, and they will continue to have those rights until the end of December 2020. For two and half years people will be able to register, and we will encourage them to do so. Importantly, this is the first publication of the scheme, and it gives the statement of intent. We then have a long period before the scheme launches next spring, so that we can be confident we have it right. I do not pretend that this is not a learning process; this is the largest exercise on this scale, and we are determined to listen to our partner organisations, and to citizens groups, to ensure that we make this a success for those EU citizens, who are so important to us.
I welcome the statement by my right hon. Friend—I think it is generous, and indeed it is. It is worth reflecting that within the criteria she laid out, we will now begin the process of ensuring that we do not have people in the UK with criminal records that could affect British citizens, which we have had to put up with for some time under European Union rules. As someone whose sister has lived and worked for pretty much all her life in Italy, can I ask whether the Minister is aware that Guy Verhofstadt at the European Parliament recently chastised other countries for failing to make the same kinds of arrangements, and with the necessary pace of change, alongside the changes that we have brought forward?
My right hon. Friend makes an important point about criminal record checks, and all applicants aged 10 or over will be checked against the UK’s national police database and watch lists. Applicants over 18 will be asked about their criminal history in the UK, and indeed overseas. My right hon. Friend has raised a significant point: this is an important, clear offer to EU citizens, which sets out the process that we wish them to go through over the next few years. The Home Secretary has made the point that it is important that UK citizens who live in other EU states should have the same confidence, and we will continue to work with the EU and other member states to reinforce that message. I accept that 1 million British citizens live in the EU, compared with the 3.3 million for whom we have responsibility to see through the registration process in this country. Nevertheless, 1 million is still a significant number, and I will continue, in engagement with our European neighbours, to reinforce that point.
I thank the Minister for advance notice of her statement. When witnesses from the3million group, which represents the 3 million EU citizens living in the UK, and witnesses from Irish in Britain, gave evidence recently to the Exiting the European Union Committee, they said that the Windrush scandal had dented their confidence in the Home Office, and raised anxiety about their new status. Those of us who sit on the Joint Committee on Human Rights and have had a chance to see some of the Home Office files on the Windrush generation have very real concerns about process in the Home Office. Many of us will have been approached by constituents—I was approached by a constituent at a social event last Friday night who wished to express concern about his status as an EU citizen. Does the Minister agree that the absolute principle should be that no EU citizen living in the UK should suffer as a result of the Brexit outcome, in which of course they had no vote? Will she consider waiving the registration fee, as the Scottish Government are going to do for public sector workers and have suggested the British Government should do across the board?
There are potentially significant numbers of people who could fall through the cracks. If just 5% of the estimated 3.3 million EU citizens living in the UK do not register by the deadline, there will be a population of nearly 200,000 left without status. Will the Minister tell us what will happen to EU citizens who do not apply in time?
What conversations has the Minister had with the Scottish Government about the detail of the scheme and how it is to be implemented? The Cabinet Secretary with responsibility for external affairs in the Scottish Government, Fiona Hyslop, and the Welsh Government’s Cabinet Secretary for Finance have written to the Home Office stating it would be unacceptable for more burdens as a result of the scheme to be placed on local authorities without first speaking to the Scottish and Welsh Governments. Will she confirm that that letter, unlike recent missives from the Scottish Government, will be replied to and that there will be proper liaison with the devolved Administrations in this respect?
I thank the hon. and learned Lady for her question. We have been clear from the start that the devolved Administrations should be fully engaged in the process. We have held separate sessions with the devolved Administrations about the design of the settlement scheme and they are also involved in regular conversations with local authorities about communications with EU citizens across the country.
The hon. and learned Lady rightly raises the concerns of her constituents. I am sure that every Member will have had constituents come to their surgeries to talk about not simply the process but status after we leave the EU—I know that I have. It is really important that we all reiterate the Prime Minister’s message, which is that we want them to stay. They have contributed a great deal to our country and we wish them to continue to do so.
On fees, we have set out very clearly that the agreement reached with the EU allows a fee up to the cost of an equivalent document for UK nationals. The fee of £65 to apply for status under the settlement scheme is in line with the current cost of obtaining a permanent residence document. To charge a lower fee than the current fee EU citizens are charged for permanent residency would of course disadvantage those who have already paid that fee.
I welcome today’s announcement, which will allow EU citizens to apply for settled status in the easiest way possible. May I suggest that the Home Office consults with community groups, such as Cheltenham’s Polish Tara, to ensure that when the scheme is rolled out it is as user friendly as possible?
I thank my hon. Friend, who is right to emphasise the need for the scheme to be as user friendly as possible and the importance of consultation. We are already undertaking extensive communications work with various communities across the UK and will continue to do so. We recognise the importance of encouraging EU citizens living here to register in a timely manner before the deadline, and of ensuring they understand that we are introducing a streamlined process and seeking to make it as easy as possible.
I thank the Immigration Minister for these further details today, which the Home Affairs Committee asked for and looks forward to scrutinising in more detail. Guy Verhofstadt, before the Committee yesterday, urged other European countries to do more to provide more information about the arrangements.
On the status of children whose parents may not register them, or who may be in care and may reach June 2021 without being registered, can the Minister say whether this means that after that date they will not be lawfully resident here? Does she worry that that will mean they have lost legal rights? What action is she taking to prevent children who have grown up here and lived here for many years losing their legal rights?
The right hon. Lady raises some important points, in particular about children. She referenced children in the care system. As I set out in my statement, there will be no fee for them. Local authorities clearly have a significant responsibility to ensure that children in the care system are registered in a timely manner. We will have a proportionate response to those who have not registered before the end of June 2021. We will be working extremely hard to ensure that as many are registered as possible. For those who are here lawfully and have been resident for the required five-year period, we have to ensure that our response takes on board the comments of all people to make sure that no child is disadvantaged.
The Minister will know that proportionately my constituency has more eastern European immigrants than any other in the country, so I welcome the scheme and the phased roll-out, which I hope means we can get it right. As a result of that high level of immigration, I have had a number of visits from European ambassadors. Can she reassure me that she will work with ambassadors and embassies, so that we provide information to communities through as many avenues as possible and get this right?
Since coming into this role, I have had the opportunity to engage with a range of ambassadors from across the EU. I will certainly continue to do so. I am very conscious that a significant part of this is about communications. We have already started our communications plan, but that will ramp up significantly over the course of the next few months. It is crucial that EU communities, wherever they live in the country, have the opportunity to know what the scheme is about and to understand it. Today, I have published an op-ed piece in a Polish newspaper. There will continue to be significant engagement with foreign newspapers.
I thank officials from the Home Office and the Department for Exiting the European Union for briefing members of the Exiting the European Union Committee last week on how the arrangements were being developed. Will the Minister confirm that the Government’s offer of settled status will apply to the 3 million-plus EU citizens in all circumstances? If, heaven forbid, no deal were reached, will those citizens who have already been granted settled status, under the roll-out timetable that the Minister has reported to the House today, keep it? Will the Government keep the scheme open to all the rest who have not yet applied, so they can remain in the United Kingdom even if there were no deal?
The right hon. Gentleman raises an important issue. I commend the work of the many Select Committees who have sought over the past six months to summon me before them, including his own. We are not anticipating failure. That is an important part of this: we have confidence that there will be a deal. We have reached an agreement with the EU guaranteeing the rights of EU citizens living in the UK and of UK nationals living in the EU, and we do not expect that issue to be reopened. I take very seriously the commitment we have made to those EU citizens and I regard that as absolutely of prime importance.
I have been very frustrated about some of the mischief from some parts, which has caused concern for my constituents who are affected. I very much welcome my right hon. Friend’s statement, but will she set out for the House what discussions are being had with the European Union about the rights of British citizens living in the EU?
I can always rely on my hon. Friend to ensure there is never any mischief from Corby. This is absolutely crucial. We have set out, both in previous announcements and commitments and today in our statement of intent, what we are seeking to do for EU citizens living here. I would like to reassure him that my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary and I, when engaging with officials, leaders or ambassadors across the EU, are reiterating the point time and again how important it is that UK citizens living in EU members states are extended the same rights and have it made clear to them how they should secure them.
Will the Minister provide clarity on EU citizens who are married to UK citizens, but who currently may not be resident in the UK? I have a number of constituents whose husbands or wives work abroad and the residency test is not always met. Will they have to apply through a new system to have residency at a future date if they are married to a British citizen?
We are very conscious, where there are durable relationships of the type the right hon. Gentleman describes, that it is important that that is clearly affirmed for them. We have set out in detail in the rules how we are going to address those different situations, including where UK citizens are married to EU citizens who may be living abroad and where EU citizens living here may have non-EEA partners or spouses. They will have an extension of the rights set out in the withdrawal agreement and the statements we have previously made. We will, of course, be providing further detail in due course.
EU citizens in my constituency would be forgiven for thinking, if they had listened to Opposition Front Benchers, that this process is so complicated that they would be required to recite the European Union (Withdrawal) Bill, which we know that only the Solicitor General can do. On that basis, and to reassure them, will my right hon. Friend confirm that all that EU citizens have to do is prove their identity and residence and declare that there are no criminal convictions? When she does that, will she welcome all those EU citizens in my constituency to do just that, because we want them to stay?
The EU citizens living in Bexhill and Battle are very important to us, as are all citizens currently living here as well as those who will arrive during the implementation period. My hon. Friend is right: as I have set out, EU citizens will be asked to demonstrate their identity and residency and to declare any criminality. I got rather anxious that this might provoke the Solicitor General into reciting the entire withdrawal agreement, but I am somewhat relieved that he does not appear to want to do so.
I thank the Minister for her statement. The agri-food sector in my constituency is very important. Workers from the EU make up large proportions of the workforce in Mash Direct and Willowbrook Foods, to give just two examples. She has outlined how the scheme will work for those who have lived here for five years, but for those who have lived here for under five years, and are in special circumstances, will she ensure that in Northern Ireland—as indeed in all the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland—we have enough staff to help applicants to fill in the applications with the necessary details and facts? Also, with a 12.5% shortfall of workers to harvest crops, will there be a seasonal scheme that helps them?
The hon. Gentleman returns to a common theme of seasonal agricultural workers and indeed, the importance of EU citizens working in many parts of the UK who come here on a seasonal basis and may well not have been here for the required five years. As I set out in my statement, EU citizens who have been here for less than the five-year period will be able to apply for pre-settled status. Once they have accrued the five years, they will be able to apply for settled status, but there will be no additional cost. He makes an important point about those who might find the process difficult. We are determined not only to make it as simple and streamlined as possible, but to put in place contact centres to provide the required assistance to people who need it.
I welcome today’s announcement, which will give clarity, reassurance and peace of mind to my constituents and their friends who are affected. I also reiterate the point that some colleagues have made: we need to push for a reciprocal agreement, so that UK citizens living in the EU also get the benefit of this announcement.
The message from the House this afternoon is very clear. We have made significant progress in publishing the scheme and are determined to have a process that is up and running and has been through private beta testing very shortly. It is incumbent on our EU friends and neighbours to make sure that they do the same for British citizens who are living in other EU states.
My Front-Bench colleague, my hon. Friend Afzal Khan, asked a number of questions. I was carefully ticking them off and I am not sure that the Minister, whose statement I welcome, clearly answered them. I will drill down on one—the criteria. The European citizens in my constituency say that they may have to move between European countries and here when they have family obligations. Some may not have worked or have ever claimed benefits. She mentioned flexibility, but I know that there will be citizens in my constituency right now who will unfortunately not feel reassured and would like to know more about the detail of how that criteria will be assessed, so that it is consistent with the principles of respect for family life.
I thank the hon. Lady for the question. We are determined to make sure that a whole range of evidence is clearly set out in the statement of intent for those who may not have worked—for those who have been here for the required period but cannot evidence it through Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs or Department for Work and Pensions records. That includes a wide range of evidence, such as mortgage statements, tenancy agreements and utility bills. We will certainly be encouraging case workers to be flexible and understanding and appreciate that some individuals may not have those documents in their own name, but in a partner’s name, and evidence of a durable relationship will suffice.
I welcome the Minister’s statement and particularly its emphasis, because it is vital that we continue to say how welcome EU citizens are in the UK and how valued they are for their contribution to our country. Will she say more to reassure UK citizens living in EU countries about the reciprocal arrangements, because UK citizens—my constituents—tell me that they are concerned about that as well?
In discussions with the EU, ambassadors and heads of member states, my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary is reinforcing that message at every point. There has been significant investment in time and resources to make sure that we have a scheme and a process that will work. We need our European friends and neighbours to reciprocate.
There was plenty to welcome in this statement, but the Minister ducked the fundamental question about what happens to the tens, if not hundreds of thousands who will inevitably miss the cut-off date. What will their status be and what did she mean when she referred to a proportionate response?
We are absolutely determined to work to make sure that as many EU citizens as possible are registered ahead of the deadline, but we will give a reasonable period in which to apply. For those who miss the deadline and have a good reason for doing so, we will of course have a response that is both pragmatic and takes into account individual circumstances, should people have been, for whatever reason—whether through ill health or mental illness—prevented from applying. We will further discuss these issues with stakeholders over coming weeks to make sure that we get it right.
Will my right hon. Friend confirm how somebody who has obtained settled status will be able to evidence that if they are asked to do so in future by a landlord or employer? If that involves a document or a card, will that document last forever, or will they have to renew it after a certain point?
Individuals will receive a digital status, which they will be able to provide to employers and landlords through the online digital service. We already have evidence of this working through our digital right-to-work checks, which were introduced earlier this year.
Over 20% of my constituents are EU citizens, and despite the warm words, about two thirds have reported negative experiences linked to their nationalities since the referendum. A local dentist I met this week said that the day after the referendum, a patient said that he and his nurse would be sent back where they came from—she is Lithuanian and he is a British citizen of Kurdish descent. I want to ask a very specific question. Irish and Polish citizens have rights that predate our membership of the European Union under legislation that is no longer compatible with immigration legislation. Will that be reviewed so that those rights are preserved?
We have been very clear that in the case of Irish citizens, who have a relationship with us that dates way back to the 1920s, we are absolutely upholding those rights. The hon. Gentleman mentions those awful incidents where EU citizens were negatively impacted by the outcome of the referendum, and they encountered the sort of incident that he describes. We are seeking to send a very clear message from this Government, and from UK society, that we recognise the contribution that EU citizens make to this country. We want them to stay. This sets out very clearly their rights and how those who have been here for five years will immediately be eligible for settled status. Those who have been here for less than five years will be able to apply for pre-settled status and accrue the five years. We are pleased to make this really important step, because we wish to give a significant message of reassurance to those people who have been living and contributing here for many years.
I thank the Minister for her statement. She is absolutely right. Many of my constituents who are EU nationals have brought their concerns to my surgery.
I have a very simple question. Do settled status and pre-settled status give EU citizens the same right to use the national health service as UK nationals?
Will the Minister say a little more about the situation of children? I know that parents are concerned about it. Children will not be able to provide utility bills or employment records, and better-off parents will probably not have received any benefits for them. What other evidence would the Government find acceptable to demonstrate that a child has the right to settled status, and where will they look for that evidence?
Obviously there will be a significant link between many children and their parents’ status, but we will accept evidence from educational institutions, and from healthcare professionals who have encountered people during their stay. Similarly, if adults cannot provide records from Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs, evidence of university or college attendance will suffice.
A significant number of my constituents are EU nationals. What provision is there for those who need to take a break in their residency to go and look after a relative who is ill? How will that affect their settled status?
There is provision in the rules for people to leave the country for up to six months in any 12-month period. However, in cases of illness or, perhaps, pregnancy, when people choose to return to a different country—perhaps to have a baby—we will certainly accommodate such absences, with a view to granting rather than refusing, and doing so in a sympathetic and flexible manner.
It is not the intention that any EU citizen who benefits from either a service or a post will have to give that up. What we are saying to EU citizens is “We wish you to stay here, and to continue to live as you do now.”