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UK biometric system hits technical bumps as EU Settlement Scheme deadline nears

UK biometric system hits technical bumps as EU Settlement Scheme deadline nears

EU citizens attempting to apply for settled status in post-Brexit Britain are reporting technical issues with proving their identity through a biometric verification app as the application deadline approaches.

The app issued by the UK government’s Home Office is called EU Exit: ID Document Check. It allows an EU citizen to scan their biometric national ID card or photo page of their biometric passport. The app then uses the smartphone NFC reader to verify the credential used and takes a scan of the applicant’s face which ‘protects your identity’ and finally takes a photo of the user to confirm they match the photo ID provided.

Once verified, the user is sent a code which can be used for their EU Settlement Scheme (EUSS) application as a pre-verification of their identity. This avoids the need to book an appointment for having documents checked – an avenue which has suffered suspensions due to COVID-19 — or sending in the documents through the post which has also had suspensions, funneling applicants into using the app.

By choosing the EU Exit: ID Document Check app route, applicants have to go through the biometric verification as the very first step. Applicants are reporting multiple difficulties in verifying their identities through the app process. Most are finding that they are not receiving a code to their phones to go to the next step. This issue arises after scanning the photo page of their passports.

Users have not yet registered any contact details either with the app or as part of their EUSS. Multiple attempts at using the app or using the app on another phone lock the users out for 24 hours.

Other users report that the NFC reading is not working, despite using smartphones which should be compatible. Attempts to call the helpline result in long queues or simply being told that there are no places left in the queue.

Reviews on the Apple App Store are polarized as users either have no issues or simply cannot proceed through the steps:

“Not reading my card, it gives me an error every time I try. Even my lawyer tried several times and it just doesn’t send the one time (sic) password instantly and when it does the passcode doesn’t work because the page expires. Please fix it, I only have couple of months to apply under EU scheme. After June laws will change.”

“I am desperate and don’t know what to do. Whenever I try to use this app I am not receiving message to continue.”

“Each time I get close to my chip in ID card it says suddenly ‘chip not found’ forcing me to repeat all steps and then blocking access for 24h after 3 failed attempts.”

The deadline for submitting an application for settled status is 30 June. Without any form of settled status, EU citizens living in the UK lose certain rights regarding access to health care, education, benefits and even the ability to rent a place to live.

Estimates put the backlog of reviewing applications at up to 400,000 with over 10,000 joining per day. But without getting through identity verification, many are not even joining this queue. Several EU nations have already extended the deadline for UK citizens to apply for similar rights and rights groups are calling for a similar extension for EU citizens in the UK.

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