EU citizens, including NHS staff, who have paid £65 to cover the costs of their settled status application will be reimbursed, the Government has said.
Speaking in Parliament yesterday, Ms May said that ‘having listened to concerns from members and organisations like the3million group’, the Government will no longer request EU citizens to pay the application fee when the scheme is rolled out in full on 30 March.
In a factsheet on the EU settled status scheme published yesterday, the Government specified that ‘EU citizens who have taken part in the private and public test phases’ will have their fee reimbursed.
NHS staff at 12 hospital trusts in North West England took part in an initial pilot in August last year – which was open exclusively to them and to three universities in Liverpool.
Another private beta test with organisations including higher education institutes and local councils later followed.
A third testing phase of the settlement scheme opened yesterday, and this time all EU citizens and their families will be able to apply. All citizens taking part in this phase will be fully reimbursed, the Government said.
BMA International Committee chair Dr Terry John said: ‘It is a positive step forward that Government has announced that it will be scrapping the settled status fee and will reimburse any applicant who has already paid.’
Brexit uncertainty remains
David Pearson, practice manager at Lostock Hall Medical Centre in Preston said that although removing the £65 fee is good news, it is unlikely it will lessen the uncertainty around Brexit.
He said: ‘We are very open to employing EU citizens and our lead GP is Polish. But the main problem is that Brexit uncertainty is leading to [fewer] EU clinicians coming to work here and those that are working here are thinking of returning [to their home countries].
It is not really about paying £65, rather about a feeling that they are no longer welcome.’
Richard Miller, practice manager at Great Bentley Surgery, Colchester said that the Government should have never introduced the fee in the first place.
He said: ‘I strongly object [to the fact] that EU citizens who have lived and worked in the UK for years have to apply to stay.
It’s a disgusting treatment of people who are very welcome and needed by our country. I feel that it’s just another example of the hostile environment this Government has created.
‘If it wasn’t for doctors, nurses, auxiliary and admin staff from the EU and other countries the NHS would have collapsed. Matt Hancock’s tweet yesterday welcoming the removal of the fee was incredibly [hypocritical] given that he’s never objected or even commented on it before.’