(Bloomberg) -- European Union citizens in the U.K. will be able to stay after Brexit -- but it will take more than dusting off an old wedding photo to do so.
As the British government unveiled its settlement scheme for EU citizens, it revealed that authorities won’t accept photographs, greetings cards or personal scrapbooks as evidence of how long someone has been in Britain. Proof of employment, mortgage statements or rent will be sufficient; utility bills, travel tickets or a doctor’s note could also be taken into account.
The price is 65 pounds ($85) for adults; half that for children.
For the estimated 3.5 million EU citizens the government expects could use the scheme, Thursday’s announcement will be the first tangible effect of Britain’s divorce from the bloc, after two years of frequently abstract parliamentary debates and political infighting.
It’s all part of the agreement the U.K. struck with the EU within the wider -- but as yet incomplete -- Brexit deal. EU citizens and their family members who’ve been resident in the U.K. for five years ore more will be eligible for “settled status,” the Home Office said.
Otherwise they will get “pre-settled status” allowing them to stay in the U.K. for five years, at which point they can apply for settled status. Both give the same access to healthcare and other benefits.
“We will be encouraging case workers to be flexible,” Immigration Minister Caroline Nokes told lawmakers on Thursday. “We want to send a clear message from this government, and from U.K. society, that we recognize the contribution that EU citizens make to this country and we want them to stay.”
EU nationals who come to the U.K. by the end of 2020 will have until June 2021 to apply. After that, the U.K. is likely to raise the drawbridge. The EU’s “free movement” rules, which allow unrestricted movement to live and work Britain, will probably end -- though the government hasn’t yet set out the details of its post-Brexit immigration plan.
The 170 million pound system -- which will allow applications for settled status online, by mobile phone, by mail or in person -- has proved controversial. The government wants to balance its determination to control migration, which was a major factor in the Brexit referendum in 2016, with wanting to show it’s treating foreigners fairly.
The move follows the citizens’ rights agreement with the EU, which guaranteed the rights of EU citizens in the U.K. and British nationals living in the bloc. The EU wouldn’t give the U.K. a Brexit deal without it.
But by publishing the plan ahead of a key EU summit in Brussels next week, the U.K. is trying to put the pressure back on the bloc. Home Secretary Sajid Javid on Thursday called on other EU states to publish details on how British nationals living in Europe will be able to secure their status.
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