Home Office poised to launch publicity blitz for EU settlement scheme

The Home Office is preparing a multimillion-pound publicity campaign to mark the full launch of its Brexit settlement scheme.

Adverts encouraging EU nationals to apply to secure their status in the UK will be rolled out across the country within weeks.

It is understood the marketing blitz is earmarked to go live in the days before Britain formally departs the bloc on March 29.

The “highly visible” campaign will include outdoor advertising on billboards, at bus stops and rail stations, with a particular focus on areas with high populations of EU citizens.

Material will also be pushed out on radio, catch-up TV, social media and websites.

The Home Office has allocated around £3.75 million for the first phase of the initiative.

A spokesman said: “EU citizens make a huge contribution to our society and we have always been clear that we want them to stay.

“That is why a wide range of communications and engagement activity is under way to ensure that we reach everyone.

“When the scheme goes live on 30 March a UK-wide marketing campaign will encourage EU citizens to apply for the EU Settlement Scheme.

“Public information will continue throughout the lifetime of the scheme, alongside direct work with employers, local authorities and voluntary and community organisations.”

The launch will mark a ramping up of the Government’s communications drive to raise awareness of the process for securing post-Brexit immigration status.

EU nationals and their family members who wish to remain in the UK beyond 2020 need to apply to the scheme.

Those who have lived continuously in the UK for five years can apply for settled status, meaning they are free to go on living and working in Britain indefinitely.

People with less than five years’ residence can obtain pre-settled status, which can later be converted into settled status.

Immigration minister Caroline Nokes confirmed on Thursday that the settlement scheme will be fully open from March 30.

Last year the Home Office carried out two private test stages, before entering the public phase in January.

By the end of February, more than 150,000 applications had been received, of which 135,000 had been concluded.

Of the completed cases, 71% were granted settled status, with the rest given pre-settled status. None were refused.

The Government has designed an online application platform from scratch.

Applicants are asked to prove their identity, declare any criminal convictions and upload a facial photograph.

Officials check employment and benefits data to confirm proof of residence, while all applications are run through UK criminality and security databases.

Government estimates indicate that between 3.5 million and 4 million European Economic Area citizens will be eligible to apply, and the Home Office has assigned 1,500 caseworkers to the scheme.

The deadline for applying will be June 30 2021, or December 31 2020 if the UK leaves the EU without a deal.