Institute for Government predicts Home Office will be unable to manage increased demand from EU nationals for residency without system change
The UK Government urgently needs to redesign non-digital residency application ahead of Brexit, according to Institute for Government
UK Visas and Immigration director general Sarah Rapson - Image credit: PA
Home Office systems are a “long way from a fully digital service” that is needed to deal with the surge of permanent residency applications from EU nationals as the UK leaves the union, a think tank has warned.
The Home Office should redesign its permanent residency application process and hire around 5,000 more staff to deal with the influx of requests it will face as the UK exits the European Union, according to think tank the Institute for Government (IfG).
In the first of its reports on how the government should implement Brexit, the IfG said that it is “unfeasible” that the UK Government will be able to implement a new immigration regime by April 2019.
It said that, although the UK and EU want to provide certainty for the three million EU nationals in the UK and the one million UK nationals living in the EU, there will be a huge administrative task in processing applications and issuing documentation.
“The challenge for government is processing a possible three million applications with a system designed to manage a fraction of that,” the report stated.
“To process all EU nationals currently eligible for permanent residence by March 2019, the Home Office would need to make roughly 3,600 decisions per day; it is currently making about 650 decisions per day.”
To deal with this, the report said, the Home Office “needs either significant numbers of additional staff or a redesign of the process, or, better still, both”.
Based on a Home Office operating model from 2014, the IfG said that to deal with the influx of applications, the UK Government would need to hire around 5,000 additional staff – so far it has hired just 240 in Liverpool.
However, the issue is not the cost of bringing in new staff, with the charges to applicants more than covering the hires, the IfG said, but with the application process itself.
“The step change in processing speed is unfeasible with the application in its current form,” the report said, adding that the high number of refusals and appeals further complicates the task.
The current system has been widely criticised, with a hard copy for applicants to fill in that runs to 85 pages.
And although the IfG acknowledged that the Home Office was working on a better system with a more user-friendly online form, it was “a long way from a fully digital service”.
Applicants still have to print off their forms to post, and processing takes place in much the same way.
There is also another online service, which will use information from the UK’s tax authority, under development that will reduce processing times, but the IfG said "it is not expected to be ready in time to deal with the bulk of the Brexit-related applications”.
MPs have flagged up Whitehall’s poor record at delivering critical border programmes
Around 30 of the 85 IT systems that operate at the UK border need to be updated as a result of Brexit
Exclusive interview with the Rural Affairs and Connectivity Secretary on Brexit and beyond
Digital industry trade body ScotlandIS is calling for immediate action by the Scottish and UK governments