According to Minister for Future Borders and Immigration Kevin Foster, data-sharing between the NHS and other government departments can ‘reduce the burden’ on EU citizens to provide proof of settled status.
Despite long-standing concerns regarding covert NHS immigration checks, and widespread calls for physical proof-of-status to be introduced, the minister has affirmed the government’s commitment to a digital-only system.
Currently, EU citizens prove their settled status by entering their passport number into an online system which then produces a one-off code. The code is then submitted by an EU citizen or service provider.
Access to technology
But there are serious concerns that this system places those without access to technology at a serious disadvantage.
The concerns were most recently raised in a written parliamentary evidence question from SNP MP Peter Grant, who sought clarification on whether the Home Office had given due consideration to issuing physical proof-of -status.
The SNP MP said: “Physical proof-of-status would be useful for people who do not have access to IT equipment or their digital documents.”
Responding to Mr Grant, Kevin Foster stated that the decision not to implement physical documents was subject to an equality impact assessment.
“As part of the development of the EU Settlement Scheme (EUSS), including the policy to provide those granted status with online evidence of immigration status instead of a physical document, consideration was given to the impact on those who may have limited digital skills or access to IT equipment.”
The Minister for Future Borders and Immigration went on to state that the impact of a solely digital system had been examined since the opening of the EUSS, and highlighted that the government has tried to ‘take steps to ensure that those who may be less able to interact digitally are not disadvantaged’.
The government has designed the digital-only system so that different public sector bodies have the ability to share data with one another. Further to this, should a particular department have access to an individual’s immigration status, this can be automatically connected to other organisations.
“[Steps taken] have included making information about an individual’s immigration status available automatically through system to system checks, at the point at which they seek to access the public services. Such checking services are already live for HM Revenue & Customs, the Department for Work and Pensions and NHS England.
This will help to reduce the occasions on which an individual has to use the online service to prove their status. We would be pleased to work with NHS Scotland to implement a similar checking service there relating to services which are the devolved responsibility of the Scottish government if they wish to do so.”
Additional support services
Kevin Foster also pointed out that additional support services have been implemented for the benefit of those who require assistance when using the online immigration status service.
He added the following:
“We have a dedicated phone helpline… where call operators can support users through the online journey, help them to access or recover their online account, help them to update their personal details and where necessary, share their status on their behalf if they are unable to do so themselves.
The Settlement Resolution Centre will also be able to assist those who are experiencing technical issues with their online immigration status, and if necessary, enable an individual’s status to be verified through alternative means.”
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We are highly experienced in all areas of immigration law, from Indefinite Leave to Remain (ILR) application support to British Citizenship by Marriage advice and guidance, and would be delighted to assist with your query.
The Home Office’s decision not to introduce physical proof of immigration status has been the subject on considerable condemnation. [Image: Change.org]
According to Minister for Future Borders and Immigration Kevin Foster, automatic NHS immigration checks can reduce the burden on EU citizens who do not have access to technology. [Image: Personnel Today]
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