Nearly 50,000 European Union nationals working in UK universities will be prioritised if they apply for settled status in the UK after Brexit, the Home Office has said.
Announcing details of a pilot scheme to fast-track certain workers for settled or pre-settled status on 11 October, the Home Office said that university staff would be able to apply for residency from November and would have their applications prioritised.
The new phase of the pilot will run until 21 December 2018. EU residents in the UK have until the end of June 2021 to register for settled status.
Alistair Jarvis, chief executive of Universities UK, welcomed the news that non-UK EU staff and their families would be “one of the earliest groups in the scheme” to have their applications for settled or pre-settled status processed.
“This will provide much-needed clarity for our EU staff and for universities,” said Mr Jarvis, adding that it was “vital for our economy and society that the UK retains and continues to attract the best and brightest from across Europe post-Brexit”.
“There are nearly 50,000 EU nationals working in UK universities, and they make a vitally important contribution to our campuses and communities,” he added.
The seven-week pilot will test the online application process that will be used by about 3.5 million EU nationals living in the UK, who will need to show that they have lived in the UK for five years by the end of 2020 to gain indefinite leave to remain.
Those who have arrived by 31 December 2020 but do not have five years’ residence may seek to stay until they have, at which point they may seek settled status.
Sajid Javid, the home secretary, said in June that the government’s “default” position would be to grant, not refuse, settled status.
People will have to provide proof of identity, state whether they have criminal convictions and whether they live in the UK, with information matched against UK databanks.
Staff involved in the health and social care sectors will also be included in the latest phase of the roll-out.