Following the referendum on 23 June 2016, the right to live in the UK for over 3 million EU nationals was suddenly cast into doubt.
Yesterday, Monday 26 June 2017, the UK Government published “The UK’s exit from the EU: safeguarding the position of EU citizens living in the UK and UK nationals living in the EU” - a long awaited policy statement intended to offer reassurance that those EU nationals living legally in Britain will not be required to leave after Brexit in March 2019.
As one would expect, the devil will be in the detail, with many of today’s commentators observing that this policy throws up far more questions than it does answer, not least how the Home Office is going to deal with over 3 million new visa applications. Even allowing for a two-year window to process these applications, this still equates to 4,000 applications a day!
For those EU nationals who worked their way through a lengthy and costly 85-page form to secure permanent residence will have to apply again, and a rush to ensure family members beat the cut off date could double or treble this number.
It is hoped that by using existing databases such as those in use at HM Revenue & Customs and the Department for Work and Pensions, the onerous task of sourcing and verifying documentation will be eased somewhat.
Here we will cover the key points from the UK Government publication:
- EU nationals who can show they have lived in the UK for 5 continuous years will be entitled to claim settled status. The cut off date for this 5-year period has yet to be announced but could be back dated to March of this year. Realistically, it is more likely to be March 2019. After this cut off date, there will be a 2-year grace period during which EU nationals will be granted temporary status to allow time for applications to be made and processed. The Government has stated that there is no need for EU citizens to apply for their new status now, and they will be able to do so up until two years after the country leaves the EU, although an early scheme for those who want to get the process out of the way will open shortly.
- Anyone arriving in the UK before this cut off date may apply for settled status after 5-years, but anyone arriving after this date will be subject to a new immigration procedure, which is as yet unknown.
- ‘Settled status’ will essentially confer the same rights as British citizens and give the holder access to public services of health, education, welfare and pensions.
- Family members who join EU nationals before the cut off date can start to build up residency towards settled status, but if they arrive after this date, they will have to apply for residency according to the normal rules of UK immigration, meaning they will have to reach an income threshold and have enough money to support themselves, similar to the current system for non-EEA nationals.
- Criminals who are deemed to be a risk to the UK will not be allowed to stay.
- Anyone currently exporting benefits to the EU will be allowed to continue to do so and pension arrangements will stay the same.
- Higher education and student loans will continue to be offered in the same way.
- The UK will seek similar arrangements with the EFTA countries.
- A new migration system for anyone coming to the UK after Brexit will be agreed and announced shortly.
- Settled status does not allow the holder to get a British passport, although individuals who have lived in the UK for six years, meeting the residency requirements, can apply for citizenship and naturalise as a British Citizen under the current rules.
Responding to the Prime Minister’s policy, Stephen Martin, Director General of the Institute of Directors said whilst there was clearly a clarity of intent, substantial questions still remained unanswered and stated, “we urge Government to lay out further detail of the process sooner rather than later” so everyone can start preparing to navigate this process.
As yet, no reference has been made to frontier workers, i.e. those 30,000 plus individuals who commute to the UK on a daily or weekly basis, or work 6 months in one country and 6 months in another?
Furthermore, unanswered questions include:
- What salary thresholds will employers need to offer in order to ensure workers can bring over family members to join them?
- Will EU students need to leave after graduation and then apply to return?
- What constitutes “family members”? We can assume this is a spouse and dependant child (under 18), but what about parents and cousins?
- Will EU nationals retain their UK rights when moving between and working across different European countries?
For more information and to read the policy in its entirety, please visit:
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