"Settled status" will allow non-British Europeans who have been living in the UK for at least five years to secure their right to stay in the country.
NHS workers in the north-west of England and students and staff from three Liverpool universities are among those invited to apply early for a "managed live trial" of the process, which the Home Office says should involve up to 4,000 people to iron out any kinks before a phased roll-out by the end of the year.
Since the UK voted to leave the EU on 23 June 2016, EU citizens who have made their homes in Britain have been securing their status by applying for "permanent residency" cards - an expensive and arduous bureaucratic process that was never designed to cater for them.
The inundation of applications led to a backlog at the Home Office and prompted Theresa May to unveil plans for the new "settled status" system.
Under the EU Settlement Scheme, EU citizens and family members who have been in the UK for five years by the end of 2020 will be able to apply for settled status, meaning they are free to go on living and working in the UK indefinitely.
Applications will cost £65 for adults and £32.50 for children under the age of 16.
Applicants will be asked to prove their identity, declare any criminal convictions and upload a facial photograph.
The Home Office will check employment and benefits data to confirm proof of residence, while all applications will be run through UK criminality and security databases. Previously, EU applicants for permanent residency had to provide dossiers of documents proving where they were, and what they were doing, for the whole of their five years in the UK.
Those who have arrived by December 31 2020, but do not have five years' residence, can apply for "pre-settled status" in a similar process, and then have their status upgraded free of charge to "settled" once they reach the five-year threshold.
The Home Office says it wants to make the process "as quick and user-friendly as possible", and that the full scheme will be in place by 30 March 2019. It also reminds EU citizens that their rights will not change until the end of the Brexit transition period in 2021 and so they don't need to apply straight away - presumably to avoid another inundation of paperwork.
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