The Secretary of State for the Home Department, my right hon. Friend the Member for Bromsgrove (Sajid Javid) is today laying before Parliament a statement of changes in immigration rules [HC 1849] , copies of which are available in the Vote Office. The changes 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 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 successfully proved some key elements of the scheme in a live environment, and we published a report on its findings on 31 October 2018.
A second, expanded private beta phase began from 1 November 2018 and will end on 21 December 2018. This has tested the online application process as an integrated, end-to-end process. It has been available, on a voluntary basis, to staff in the higher education, health and social care sectors across the UK, and to some vulnerable individuals, being supported by a small number of local authorities and community groups, in order to test the operation of the scheme for those with support needs.
We will publish a full report on the second private beta phase in January 2019. However, the initial findings from this phase have been positive. By 13 December 2018, more than 15,500 applications had been made and more than 12,400 of these had been concluded, enabling the new system and applicant interaction with it to be tested at scale: 71% of the concluded applications were granted settled status, with the rest granted pre-settled status, and many received their decision within 24 hours; 77% of applicants who provided feedback said that they found the online application process easy, or fairly easy, to complete. More than 90% of applicants successfully used the identity verification app to prove their identity remotely, with the rest required to submit their identity document by post.
We have also learned lessons from this second private beta phase which have enabled further improvements to be made. These include improved functionality in respect of how an applicant verifies their email address; an increase in the size of files an applicant can upload, should they need to provide supporting evidence; and updates to the caseworking system.
In light of the successful testing of the online application process during the private beta phases, we have decided to proceed, as planned, with the start of the wider public implementation of the EU settlement scheme from 21 January 2019. From that date, the scheme will be available to resident EU citizens (and their EU citizen family members) with a valid passport, and to their non-EU citizen family members holding a valid biometric residence card, so that they can prove their identity remotely using the identity verification app, which is an integrated part of the online application process.
We currently anticipate that the further implementation of the EU settlement scheme will be secured through further immigration rules changes to be laid before Parliament in early March 2019, so that the scheme will be fully open by 30 March 2019.