EU citizen settlement app may not land on iOS before Oct. 31 Brexit

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European Union nationals wanting to remain in the United Kingdom after the Brexit process has concluded are still unable to apply for residency via an iPhone, with the government still not saying when the app will be available to use on roughly half of the country's smartphones.

The current state of affairs has the UK potentially heading towards a no-deal Brexit, where it leaves the European Union without making any plans on October 31. As part of the split, the government announced it would end the freedom of movement on the same date, but without operating a transition period.

Under the removal of freedom of movement, this won't stop EU citizens from visiting the UK, but would limit the ability for people to travel and stay for long periods of time, such as to work or to study. For EU citizens wishing to stay, they will have until the end of 2020 to apply for a settled status.

As part of a program to enable the 3.6 million estimated EU citizens to apply for settled status, the government planned to offer an app to confirm a citizen's status ahead of the departure from the EU, but while an Android app is available to use, a version for iOS continues to be unavailable. The Financial Times reports the Home Office has declined to advise on when the app will be available for use on an iPhone. A helpline for the scheme also advises callers it is unknown if the app will be ready ahead of October 31.

The Home Office did say it was working to make the app available "later this year," though without providing a timeline. Applicants with iPhones are instead being informed to borrow an Android device to go through the process, or to use a government-endorsed center if they are wary of posting identification documents.

A report source close to Apple advises the App Store will be able to host the app when iOS 13 ships, most likely this September, but added it wasn't Apple's responsibility to make sure the app is ready for use at that time.

The app's creation has been long and issue-prone, with the main sticking point being Apple's restrictions over the iPhone's NFC system, as while Android devices are capable of scanning a passport's chip, an iPhone is prevented from doing so. The app requires users to take a selfie, answer three questions, and to scan the contactless chip in the passport to verify their identity, something that cannot currently be done on an iPhone.

In November, the Home Office said there would be problems with Apple devices for the app's launch, and hoped for an update that would free up NFC for the purpose. Government ministers and then-Home Secretary Sajid David have previously made requests, but to no avail.

An April update on the affair revealed Apple had agreed to changes to iOS to allow the app to function by the end of 2019.