The UK Government has published a policy paper outlining the rights of EU citizens in the UK post-Brexit.
The 15-page paper sets out the government’s proposal that qualifying EU citizens would have to apply for residence status, granting them settled status under UK law.
To qualify, EU citizens must have been resident in the UK before a ‘specified date’ and have completed five years’ continuous residence in the UK before they apply.
The policy paper states the specified date will be no earlier than 29th March 2017 – the date the UK triggered Article 50 – and no later than the date of the UK’s departure from the EU.
The paper does not make it clear whether settled status would mean identity cards for settled EU nationals, or simply be an entry on a Home Office database.
Prime Minister Theresa May issued a statement in which she said she wanted to “completely reassure people that under these plans, no EU citizen currently in the UK lawfully will be asked to leave at the point the UK leaves the EU.”
Applications for settled status will be made online, described by Mrs May as a “light touch” system, using existing tax documents.
Addressing the House of Commons, the Prime Minister said that EU nationals with settled status would have the same rights as British citizens if they wanted to bring their family members to the UK.
The policy paper confirms that family dependants joining a qualifying EU citizen in the UK before its withdrawal from the EU will be eligible to apply for settled status after five years, irrespective of the specified date.
However, the paper states that those joining after the UK’s exit will be subject to the same rules as those joining British citizens, or alternatively to the post-exit immigration arrangements for EU citizens who arrive after the specified date.
Under current rules, this would mean that EU nationals would not be permitted to bring a spouse to live with them post-Brexit unless the minimum income threshold of £18,600 was met.
But in her speech to MPs, the topic of the minimum income threshold went unmentioned by Mrs May.
The proposals have drawn criticism for lack of clarity and detail.
The EU’s Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier said via Twitter that “more ambition, clarity and guarantees” were needed.
Negotiators for the EU had tabled a four-page proposal in which all rights of all EU citizens impacted by Brexit would be protected for life.
This would mean both UK citizens in the EU and EU citizens in the UK would have the same residency rights, rights to work or establish a business, and access to healthcare and pensions from any country in Europe.
However, several of these issues for UK nationals living in the EU have not been guaranteed.
British in Europe, the largest coalition group of Britons living and working in Europe, expressed fears that the 1.2 million UK citizens living in the EU were being ignored.
Jane Golding, chair of British in Europe, said of the policy paper: “There is very little here about what Theresa May actually wants to achieve for us and how our rights should be protected.”
Read the full policy paper and example case studies here.
For advice on how the policy may affect you, or for information on UK immigration in general, please email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.