My rt hon Friend the Home Secretary is today laying before Parliament a Statement of Changes in Immigration Rules. This is the latest in the regular, half-yearly series of changes to the Immigration Rules. The changes have three main purposes.
First, they implement the next phase of the roll-out of the EU Settlement Scheme for resident EU citizens and their family members to obtain UK immigration status. The Immigration Rules for the scheme, set out in Appendix EU, came into force on 28 August 2018, for the purposes of an initial private beta test phase, involving 12 NHS Trusts and three universities in north-west England. This phase has enabled us successfully to test some of the functionality and processes of the scheme in a live environment.
I have today written to the rt hon Member for Normanton, Pontefract and Castleford, the Chair of the Home Affairs Select Committee, with our early findings from the initial private beta phase and I will place a copy of that letter in the Library. We will continue to monitor the findings from that phase and will publish a report on those findings, including how they will inform the scheme’s development, as we move into a second private beta phase in November.
Overall, the technology performed well, with some minor improvements identified to improve the overall customer experience, and feedback from applicants on the speed and ease of the application process has been very positive. The initial private beta phase has enabled us to test components of the online application process. We now need to test that online process as an integrated, end-to-end process.
We are therefore moving ahead with a second private beta phase, which, as set out in this Statement of Changes, will run from 1 November to 21 December 2018. It will also significantly scale up the testing, including, on a voluntary basis and with the agreement of the Devolved Administrations, staff in the higher education, health and social care sectors across the UK. This phase will also include some vulnerable individuals being supported by a small number of local authorities and civil society organisations so that we can test the operation of the scheme for those with support needs. I am grateful to all the organisations and their staff taking part in the testing and thereby helping us to establish the EU Settlement Scheme as effectively as possible.
We currently expect that the further phased implementation of the scheme will be secured through further Immigration Rules changes to be laid before Parliament in December 2018 (for implementation in January 2019), and in early March 2019, so that the scheme will be fully open by our exit from the EU.
Second, further to my Written Ministerial Statement of 13 September 2018 (HCWS961), this Statement of Changes introduces a form of leave to remain for those children transferred to the UK as part of the Calais camp clearance to reunite with family between October 2016 and July 2017 and who do not qualify for international protection (i.e. refugee status or humanitarian protection). It is our view that all those 549 children transferred from Calais to the UK to reunite with family should be able to remain here with their family members. We do not consider that it would be in their best interests as children to separate them from their families, having received significant support from the UK authorities to reunite and integrate here.
Third, this Statement of Changes amends the Immigration Rules on the requirements for a valid application to support the operation of the new application process in UK Visas and Immigration, and specifies evidence for medical exemption from Knowledge of Language and/or Life in the UK requirements. The new application process will mean that customers in the UK applying to extend their stay or apply for citizenship will be able to submit key documents and personal information in a more secure way with the support of designated staff. UK Visas and Immigration will no longer generally handle physical evidence when considering a case, so the majority of customers will be able to retain their passport, and all customers will be able to retain their supporting evidence as part of the application process. UK Visas and Immigration aims to deliver a world-class customer experience that is competitive, flexible and accessible; and the launch of these new, more efficient front-end services this November is a big step towards that goal.
This statement has also been made in the House of Lords: