LONDON (REUTERS) - More than 750,000 European Union citizens have applied to remain living in Britain after it leaves the bloc, interior minister Sajid Javid said on Thursday (May 30).
The issue of what would happen to the more than three million EU nationals living in Britain was one of the first to be tackled in divorce talks with the bloc.
Britain has said EU citizens have until at least Dec 31, 2020, to apply for "settled status" whether or not an exit deal with the EU is approved.
Britain is currently due to leave on Oct 31, but Prime Minister Theresa May is stepping down after failing to get her exit deal approved by Parliament and those vying to replace her are divided over whether to seek changes to that deal.
"EU citizens are our friends, neighbours and colleagues who contribute so much to this country. Whatever the outcome of Brexit we want them to stay," Javid said in a statement, adding that the scheme had so far seen 750,000 applications.
Figures released by his department showed a total of 621,400 people had applied by the end of April, with 389,900 of those received in the first month after the scheme was launched fully on March 30 and the rest submitted during a test phase which began in August last year.
Under the EU Settlement Scheme, EU citizens who have lived continuously in Britain for five years can be granted settled status, giving them the same rights to work, study and access benefits and services as they currently do.
Polish nationals accounted for the biggest group, with 103,200 having applied so far, followed by 89,900 Romanians and 70,800 Italians, the government said.
A total of 445,000 applications have been concluded, with a third of those given settled status. The rest were given "pre-settled" status, and can apply for settled status when they hit the five-year mark.