The UK government’s plans for a new smartphone EU citizens app, to make it easier for EU citizens to apply to remain in the UK after Brexit, has hit a stumbling block with Apple devices.
The new UKGov app is a prime part of its push to get the estimated 3.5 million EU citizens in the UK to apply for “settled status”.
The UK Government were hoping Apple would release an update to its operating system to allow their devices to scan passports for EU citizens app in the same way that Android phones can. Apple devices have been fitted with Near Field Communication (NFC) chips since 2014, but the company has limited use of NFCs to Apple Pay transactions, for both security and commercial reasons.
A September update to Core NFC, the iOS system used for transactions, enabled an NFC tag to open up a specific app for reading it among other changes, but only using a specific set of formats.
Apple has declined to allow access, despite representations from UK government ministers, and a trip to the firm’s Silicon Valley HQ by the home secretary, Sajid Javid.
There was industry speculation Apple would unlock the chip reader to third-party apps when it released its latest operating system, 12.1.
Applicants will have to use an recent-model Android phone to complete their application or post their passport to the UK Visa and Immigration Service.
Android users make up approx 50% of the UK market, with Apple’s iPhone dominating the other half.
Immigration minister, Caroline Nokes, told MPs the Home Office could not be blamed because Apple “won’t release the upgrade we need in order for it to function”.