Update on the immigration process for EU nationals in the UK
28 June 2017
On Monday, Theresa May gave formal commitment to guarantee the rights of over 3 million EU citizens to have continued residence in the UK once the country leaves the European Union.
The Prime Minister’s announcement follows statements made to EU leaders and journalists in Brussels late last week, and marks one of the first issues to arise as part of the Brexit negotiations.
However, the Government has seen fit to leave the statement open-ended, with May stating previously that “there will be details of this arrangement which will be part of the negotiation process”, and firmly refusing to commit to the exact “cut off date” against which EU nationals in the UK may formalise their status inside the country.
The announcement states that “no EU citizen here lawfully before the cut off date, which is yet to be agreed, will have to leave as a result of us leaving the EU” and that “there will be no ‘cliff edge’ for business or individuals”. The proposal also grants a ‘grace period’ of up to two years which is intended to give EU citizens and their families time to lodge an application.
Routes of application
The proposal outlines three categories:
- Those who are eligible for ‘settled status’ and will be treated as equals to UK nationals in terms of pensions, welfare, and education, having already been resident in the UK for at least five years before the cut-off date;
- Those with less than five years in the UK prior to the cut off date, who will be able to apply for permission to continue residing in the UK until such time as they are eligible to apply; and
- Those who arrived in the period between the cut off date and the UK’s final exit from the EU, who will be need to apply under as yet unspecified ‘future immigration arrangements’ for EU citizens.
At the current time, EU nationals are not required to make any application, with the Home Office stating that guidance on the applications will be made in due course.
While the formal commitment will be welcome news to those already anxious to gain clarity on their rights in the UK, the proposals do not themselves mark a radical shift from the Permanent Residence already available.
Nevertheless, it will require a new application from EU citizens, even those who currently hold Permanent Residence status in the UK as such status will lose validity after the UK exits the Union in March 2019. Applications themselves will be made as streamlined as possible, drastically reducing the time spent on previous paper-heavy applications.
The potential guarantee of residence status of up to 3 million EU citizens will provide relief to UK businesses, many of which many of which warned against the loss of highly skilled workers after the Brexit referendum and potentially reduce the talent pool from which they can draw.
The mention by Theresa May of ‘light-touch’ online applications will no doubt come as a relief to those who saw the 85 page paper document as unduly onerous and is perhaps a recognition by the UK Government of the number of individuals who will look to cement their right to build a life in the UK after Brexit.
The Government’s announcement demonstrates its commitment to guaranteeing the rights of EU nationals in the UK while allowing for some flexibility by not naming a hard-and-fast cut-off date against which EU nationals in the UK may formalise their status inside the country.