Following the UK”s official withdrawal from the European Union, Britain could be set for 140 years” worth of visa applications during the course of one year, according to a report by Oxford University”s Migration Observatory.
Although the Government has pledged to preserve the status of EU citizens currently settled in the UK, even if freedom of movement does come to an end, it is expected that the practicalities of this could prove to be an administrative struggle.
There are currently 3.5 million European nationals living in the UK, all of whom will be required to prove they are residing here legally once any restrictions are introduced.
At present, the Home Office processes approximately 25,500 permanent residence applications per year so the surge in applications to almost 140 times that amount is likely to cause significant delays and place considerable strain on Home Office resources. The report describes the exercise of processing millions of applications in such a short space of time as “a formidable task”.
A committee of MPs have already warned that any changes to immigration laws typically leads to a spike in immigration applications prior to the new rules taking effect, urging that the UK Visas and Immigration directorate should be provided with additional resources.
With Brexit talks currently underway, it is yet to emerge what kind of deal the UK will strike up with the EU regarding freedom of movement and, as such, the legal status of many EU immigrants remains unclear. If the long delays in visa processing materialise as expected, thousands of European citizens could be left in a state of limbo unable to demonstrate they are entitled to work in the UK.
A Home Office spokesman has confirmed that the intention is to protect EU nationals already living in the UK, adding: “The only circumstances in which that wouldn”t be possible is if British citizens” rights in European member states were not protected in return.”
“We are about to begin these negotiations and it would be wrong to set out further unilateral positions in advance. But there is clearly no mandate for accepting the free movement of people as it has existed up until now.”
If any EU nationals currently living in the UK are concerned about their status in the wake of Brexit and wish to enquire about applying for permanent residency, we urge applicants to begin the process early before the predicted rush.
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