The project, however, has hit a significant obstacle – Apple. The app itself is not fully functional on Apple devices – an issue that could inhibit hundreds of thousands of EU nationals.
The smartphone app could play an integral role in helping more than 3.5 million EU nationals to apply for “settled status” once the country leaves the EU next year.
Under Government proposals, EU citizens would be required to answer three questions, take a “selfie” to be cross-checked by the Home Office and then scan the chip on their passport to verify their identity.
The final part of this process, however, is only available to Android users. Currently, Apple device users are unable to scan their passports and would potentially have to borrow an Android phone or send their passport by mail to the UK Visa and Immigration Service – an action that would render the app useless.
In addition to Apple devices, Blackberry and Microsoft operating systems for smartphones will not be able to scan passport chips.
Officials at the Home Office have known about problems with Apple devices since earlier this year when the app was announced. However, hopes that the company would release updates haven’t come to fruition.
The Silicon Valley giant has failed to respond to UK Government requests for an update despite Home Secretary Sajid Javid travelling to the company’s headquarters.
Immigration Minister, Caroline Nokes, reflected the Government’s frustration over the issue before the Home Affairs Committee on 30th October.
Nokes told MPs that criticism of the Home Office’s handling of the situation was unwarranted and that the source of the problem is because Apple “won’t release the upgrade we need in order for it to function.”
Apple devices have been fitted with Near Field Communication chips since 2014. These chips have, so far, limited users to using Apple Pay functions and the company has not introduced additional functions due to security and commercial reasons.
Ahead of the release of its latest operating system, iOS 12.1, there was speculation that the company would unlock the chip reader to third-party apps, but the company refutes this speculation.
The firm said it will continue to work with the Home Office but would not comment on whether the issue will be resolved by the time the UK leaves the EU in March 2019.