The UK Government has now published its proposal for the treatment of European citizens residing in the UK after the exit from European Union. Ambiguity in the paper seems deliberate and omissions (e.g. cut-off date, nature and fees for future biometric applications) are palpable.

Provisions of the Immigration (EEA) Regulations, which govern requirements for EEA nationals in the UK, will move under domestic Immigration Rules. Some of these are at best irrational and harsh, particularly the infamous rules governing spousal applications, elderly relatives, and some requirements relating to the points based system.

It is yet to be determined how the UK Government will treat those already in possession of permanent residence. The Government proposes that all EEA nationals should hold a biometric identification card, similar to other visa nationals. Therefore, even where an EEA national holds a card certifying their permanent residence, they will have to submit an application. The Government is promising a streamlined process, but just how ‘streamlined’ the application will be is anyone’s guess.

In my opinion, the best case scenario would be that applicants with permanent residence documents will only need to apply for the biometric card (i.e. submit fingerprints and have their photographs taken). This will entail passing the Life in the UK Test and proving knowledge of the English language. This would bring the permanent residence application previously issued at a fee of £65 to an equal footing with applications for indefinite leave to remain, which under current immigration rules cost each applicant over £1,000.

Those who do not hold residence documents, and are waiting to apply once the UK leaves the European Union, will most likely be required to submit expensive applications. European citizens with assets, careers, studies and children in education will have to pay these fees in order not to disrupt their family lives.

Whilst the Home Office asks EEA citizens not to take any action, my advice remains to submit an application as soon as you’re ready. It is unlikely that the Home Office will look to make the application process any easier or cheaper.