While this is subject to negotiation with the EU, and as a result could be subject to change, it does give some useful indicators and raises some further questions.
First of all, it is important to note that the paper only deals with EU nationals living in the UK when we leave the EU and does not deal with future immigration routes. These will be set out in a future Immigration Act and details on the make up of these routes is not yet available.
From an immigration perspective the key points are as follows:
- There will be a cut off date for EU nationals arriving in the UK. Those who arrive in the UK before this date will be able to apply for “settled status” after 5 years residence, whereas those who arrive after this date will need to move into another immigration route after Brexit.
- The exact cut off date is still to be determined but it will fall between the triggering of Article 50 and the UK leaving the EU. It is possible that the UK Government will fix a historic cut off date meaning that people will have arrived in the UK unaware that they will be unable to stay long term. This is likely to be one of the key points in the negotiation.
- EU nationals will be required to register for an ID card as proof of their right to work. This was inevitable and is to ensure that employers will be able to distinguish between those with the right to work and new arrivals who will be subject to different immigration rules.
- Surprisingly, even those who already hold a Permanent Residence card will need to register for the new “settled status”. This is likely to affect a large number of people who have already applied for Permanent Residence cards by navigating the existing 85 page form.
- Details of the registration process will be announced at a later date but it will be “streamlined” and make use of information already held by the UK Government. There will be a fee for registration which will be announced at a later date.
- The controversial requirement that students and people claiming to be self sufficient require comprehensive private medical insurance will be relaxed when people apply for settled status.
Whilst it is positive that there is now some indication of what the future holds, when I read the announcement the following questions arose:
- How will the Government treat those with absences from employment? At present, in order to acquire Permanent Residence, someone must be working, studying, self employed or self sufficient in order to be considered “resident” in the UK under the relevant EU regulations. The announcement only refers to residence in the UK but it is unclear if this means residence in terms of the regulations or simply physical residence.
- What will the registration process involve, and how much will it cost? Currently applications cost £65 each as the cost is capped under EU law but this is likely to rise after Brexit. If the process is made more expensive it will likely deter people from applying.
- How long with the process take? Although the Government announcement refers to a streamlined process it will still take some time to deal with a large number of applications. The latest estimates suggest that the current backlog of EU applications would take several years to clear, and if there is a requirement that all EU nationals register once the UK leaves the EU this could create even more work and longer processing times.
Details of the registration process are likely to be clearer as the negotiation progresses. However for the time being my advice to clients is as follows:
- Those interested in ultimately applying for British citizenship should continue to apply for Permanent Residence status as they become eligible. This will likely allow them to become British citizens before the UK leaves the EU and avoid the registration process.
- Anyone who does not want to become a British citizen, but is keen to secure their status, may wish to monitor the negotiations before making an application. If the UK position is accepted even those with Permanent Residence will need to make a registration application, and until details of this process are known it may be prudent to avoid making a potentially unnecessary Permanent Residence application.
- EU nationals intending to bring family members to the UK in the near future should seek immediate legal advice. The UK position is that following Brexit family members, arriving after the cut off date, will need to meet the UK immigration rules which can be complex.
If you are interested in the announcement affects you, or how you can apply for Permanent Residence or British citizenship, please get in touch with me for a free, no obligation, discussion on how we can assist you.