Since the UK government served its Article 50 notice in March 2017, the Home Office has provided assurances that EU nationals in the UK will not at this stage need to make any application to confirm their stay in the UK. This does not, however, mean that they will not need to do anything in relation to the UK’s full exit from the EU, currently due to be on 29 March 2019.
It is envisaged that EU nationals who arrived in the UK before the set cut-off date (yet to be determined) will be given a blanket visa for a period up to two years (although this has not been confirmed). During this time, EU nationals will need to make an application to the UK Visas and Immigration under UK immigration rules in order to remain in the UK.
This could be for confirmation of their entitlement to be in the UK or, if applicable, their permanent residence application.
For those EU nationals who have obtained settlement under the EU regulations, an application for settlement will still need to be made under UK rules. This process will be seen as a formality with limited documentary support as the UKVI should have the information on file. The UKVI has made assurances that this process will be as streamlined as possible.
In relation to these “new” applications by EU nationals, the UKVI has suggested that processes and systems should be set up in 2018 to facilitate these applications.
That being said, the relevant UK legislation that is progressing through the UK Parliament – The European Union (Withdrawal) Bill – is intended to incorporate the full body of existing EU law into UK law. This will be a long and tortuous process as much of the ‘retained EU law’ will need to be corrected to ensure that it ‘works’ as UK law post-Brexit, and a number of UK MP’s have expressed reservations about the scope of the ‘correcting’ power given to the UK government. But if the Bill is passed and operates as intended, then EU nationals legally resident in the UK at the time of Brexit will have a very strong status and the legal need to make any application to stay is arguably subject to question.
As with any commercial negotiation, what is released publicly while negotiations are proceeding and what is eventually agreed, can be very different.