The Government has published a policy paper outlining UK’s “fair and serious offer” in relation to the rights of EU citizens remaining in the UK after Brexit.
Until UK actually leaves the EU, EU citizens will continue to enjoy the same rights as they do now.
The outlined changes:
- Once UK has left the EU, EU citizens will be given time to apply for residence documents under domestic law. Residence cards and documents certifying permanent right of residence will have to be replaced by a new form of document to be confirmed.
- There will be “a grace period” between the date Britain leaves the EU and immigration control applies to EU nationals and their family members. Free movement rights will continue throughout this period which is expected to be “up to two years” (i.e. may be less). This period should be used to apply for new documentation confirming either settled or temporary status.
- Settled status is to be granted to those who have lived in the UK for a continuous period of five years and some rules may be softened in comparison to what they are now (for example, self-sufficient persons may not need to produce evidence of a comprehensive medical insurance).
- Family members of EU nationals will get their rights confirmed in line with their EU national sponsors;
- There will be “a cut-off date”: the arrival after this date will not lead to settled status. This date is yet to be established, anywhere between 29 March 2017 and the date Britain officially leaves the EU.
- Those who were resident in the UK before the “cut-off date” but have not lived in the UK for a continuous period of five years at the end of the “grace period” will be allowed to apply for a temporary status for a period necessary to bring them up to a five year residence. They will then have the right to apply for settled status.
Uncertainties and points “to be confirmed”
- “Grace period” during which new immigration documents are to be issued;
- “Cut-off date” after which new arrivals will not benefit from the provisions covering those who were in the UK before this date;
- The actual provisions making those who were here before the ”cut-off” date in a more favourable position that those who arrived after (since the requirement to apply for permission to remain will extend to all EU citizens);
- The cost of applications. The proposal states that “the UK intends to set the fees at a reasonable level”. However, unless the current fee structure for residence documents is described as “unreasonable”, an application for indefinite leave to remain may cost £2297 per applicant (adult or child alike), or £993 per applicant for temporary residence.
- It is not clear how those who hold a document certifying permanent right of residence would benefit when applying for “settled status” under the new scheme, but it is expected that the procedure will be in some way simplified.
- Good character requirement will most likely apply, but it is not clear if it will be the same as it is for everyone else under the Immigration Rules. There is nothing in the proposal to suggest it will be less stringent.
- EU citizen who wish to naturalise as British citizens are probably better off doing this so sooner rather than later (the cost is set to go up);
- Before becoming British, consider the impact of losing free movement rights – this mainly affects your right to family reunion with your family members from outside the EU;
- Consider registering your children as British citizens if their future clearly lies in the UK
- Drive carefully – good character requirement excludes people with driving offences from applying for British citizenship or indefinite leave to remain
- It is worth making sure that whatever you apply for is the right document for you and it is issued first time round. Repeated applications have lower chances of success and the promised “grace period” is unlikely to allow time for trial and error.