LONDON: The British government launched a phone app Monday to allow some 3.5 million EU nationals to apply to stay after Brexit -- immediately receiving a mixed reception from immigrants increasingly concerned about their fate.
Most European citizens currently living in Britain will need to apply for "settled status" or "pre-settled status", depending on how long they have been there, to continue to work and claim benefits after Brexit.
The partial app rollout is a test stage before the scheme becomes fully operational on March 30, the day after Britain is due to leave the European Union. It will stay open until late 2020 or 2021, depending on whether Britain leaves the EU with a deal or not.
But some of those trying to use the system on Monday -- which currently requires an Android smartphone and a biometric passport -- hit immediate roadblocks. "I'm supposed to be an easy case," Polish journalist Jakub Krupa, who has been in Britain for six and-a-half years, told AFP after the online tool told him it needed "more evidence" to certify his residency.
"The system does not recognise me for being in the UK for that long," he said. "I'm not particularly worried but it's obviously frustrating, undermining confidence in the process". Prime Minister Theresa May has said repeatedly she wants Europeans living in Britain to stay. Officials have vowed to make the process as easy as possible, but there are concerns at how they will cope with what could be some 6,000 applications a day. EU nationals who can prove residency for five years, until the end of 2020, will be granted so-called settled status.