EU citizens without Android devices could have to travel 250 miles in Home Office settlement scheme pilot

Written by Sam Trendall on 10 December 2018 in News
News

EU citizens working in the NHS and higher education sectors can now apply for settled status in the UK – but those with an iPhone could face a long journey if they wish to do so

Credit: Hamzaniazii/CC BY-SA 3.0

EU citizens wishing to take part in the pilot of the government’s settlement scheme could have to travel 250 miles if they wish to scan their documents but do not have access to an Android device.

Pilots of the settlement scheme got underway last month, with EU citizens working in the NHS or social-care sector throughout the UK now able to apply for settled status. Employees of many higher-education institutions can also take part in the pilot phase, as can some children in local-authority care or those receiving support from certain community organisations. To obtain settled status during the pilot, EU citizens must apply,

It emerged earlier this year that the government app through which applicants can scan their passports or residence cards was designed to work only on Android smartphones or tablets. 

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This is despite the fact that, according to market research firms, Android accounts for less than 40% of UK smartphones and about a quarter of the tablet market. Apple is the dominant force in both sectors, accounting for almost all the remaining market share.
 
Notspots – cities and towns the furthest away from any document-scanning location
  • Thurso: 264 miles by road to Edinburgh
  • Penzance: 191 miles by road to Bath
  • Port Logan: 134 miles by road to Edinburgh
  • Holyhead: 118 miles by road to Sale
  • Cromer: 105 miles by road to Lincoln
  • Belleek: 104 miles by road to Belfast
In April, the Home Office said it was “in discussions with technology companies… to ensure as many people as possible can use” the document-scanning app. But these discussions did not result in the app being extended to any additional platforms. It can still only be used on a smartphone or tablet running Android 6.0 or above and with near-field communication capability.
 
Advice on GOV.UK says that, if applicants wish to scan their documents but do not have an Android device, “you can use someone else’s phone or tablet to do this”. Once the settlement scheme launches in full next year, users that cannot access the app will also be able post their documents to immigration authorities.
 
The guidance published by both the government and the NHS strongly urges that citizens wishing to apply for settled status during the current pilot phase to have access to an Android device so they can use the document-scanning app. 

However, for those without access to such an Android phone or tablet, the government has also set up 13 locations (marked on the pictured map) around the UK where users can make an appointment to scan their documents.

While these are scattered throughout the country, there are numerous areas of the UK – such as parts of Cornwall, East Anglia, and west and northern Scotland – that are a long way from any of the available locations. In some cases, the distance by road is as much as 260 miles.

The locations – which are mostly register offices – are in Belfast, Edinburgh, Stockton-on-Tees, Hull, Lincoln, Sale, West Bromwich, Caerphilly, Bath, Hatfield, Southampton, and two in London: in Hackney; and Southwark.

The Home Office indicated to PublicTechnology that, once the programme launches in full, the number of document-scanning facilities available to applicants will be expanded beyond the current 13 locations – although a specific number is not yet available, according to the department.

The settlement scheme is due to be fully up and running by 30 March next year – the day after the UK’s scheduled exit from the European Union. From this date, EU citizens wishing to remain in the UK after the end of 2020 will have 15 months to apply for settled status or, for those who came to the country from 2016 onwards, pre-settled status.

Applying will cost £65 for adults and £32.50 for children.

A Home Office spokesperson told PublicTechnology: “It is wrong to suggest that EU citizens will have to travel to have their documents checked. The vast majority of applicants will have access to the EU Exit Identity Document Check app which will make it easy for them to have their identity confirmed automatically.

“As part of the private and voluntary phase of testing we opened 13 locations across the country to support applicants using the ‘EU Exit: Identity Document Check’ app. This will be expanded once the scheme is fully rolled out.

“However, once the scheme is fully launched, a postal route for the submission of ID evidence will also be available.”

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Sam Trendall
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Sam Trendall is editor of PublicTechnology, where a version of this story first appeared.

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