Prime minister Theresa May told the House of Commons on Monday that she had listened to “powerful representations” on the scheme.
“I can confirm today that when we roll out the scheme in full on 30 March, the government will waive the application fee so that there is no financial barrier for any EU nationals who wish to stay. Anyone who has applied during the pilot phase will have their fee reimbursed,” she said.
Dr Terry John, BMA international committee chair, said: “It is a positive step forward that government has announced that it will be scrapping the settled status fee and will reimburse any applicant who has already paid.
“The NHS is dependent on the valuable contribution of doctors from overseas, with one in thirteen of our workforce coming from European Union countries. It is unacceptable that these hard-working professionals have had barriers placed in their way given that they deliver important services to patients. The government must, as the BMA has consistently pointed out, ensure that EU doctors are encouraged to remain in our workforce.”
Under the planned scheme for EU nationals anyone aged over 16 had been due to pay £65 to apply for settled status, and the fee for anyone younger would have been £32.50.
In order to be granted settled status, an individual will have had to have lived in the UK for a continuous five-year period, which means having spent at least six months of each year in the UK.
Any EU nation who has lived in the UK for under five years will be eligible for pre-settled status, which will permit them to stay in the UK until their five years is up. After this point, they will need to claim settled status.
Dr John said that the government needed to raise awareness of the settled status scheme. “A recent BMA survey found more than a third of eligible doctors were unaware it existed. Given the unacceptable harm caused to the Windrush generation by the confusion over visas last year, we must not allow a similar crisis to arise for EU doctors,” he said.