By Ned Simons
EU citizens who want to remain in the UK will no longer have to pay a fee – a major climbdown by the prime minister.
The government had initially planned to charge £65 for adults and £32.50 for children to apply for the post-Brexit settled status scheme.
Speaking in the Commons today, the prime minister said: “I can confirm today that when we roll out the scheme in full on 30th March, the government will waive the application fee so that there is no financial barrier for any EU nationals who wish to stay.”
Anyone who has already applied, or will apply during the pilot phase, will have their fee reimbursed.
The settled status programme entered its first public testing phase on Monday.
Critics have warned that thousands could be left without legal status if applications are not processed quickly and efficiently.
Officials expect they can process about 6,000 applications a day, with about 1,500 caseworkers on the scheme and a further 400 in a resolution centre to deal with issues.
A trial of nearly 30,000 applicants was restricted to people in specific professions, with only a small number of vulnerable people participating.
More than two thirds were approved in three working days and 81% within a week.
While improvements to the process have been made, nearly a quarter of people told the Government they found it difficult during previous testing.
Jeremy Corbyn said he welcomed the move to scrap the planned charge. But he slammed May’s attempts at cross-party talks to break the Brexit deadlock as “a sham”.