The UK Government published a Brexit update with the notion that it would relieve worried EEA nationals in the UK and let everyone see how lovely the UK Government intend to be over the end of free movement. This somewhat backfired when the European Parliament then said the proposal was “inadequate”.
This has continued the uncertainty that is stagnating action. For the first time since the referendum, the European casework team saw a drop in applications. But the best advice remains to act now, whilst there is certainty and a working system to use. To UK immigration law advisors, the proposals in the technical document are not surprising. They suggest a system of application for documenting EEA nationals in the UK. Obviously this will need to occur in order to evidence the different categories of Europeans; those with rights from the current free movement system, those with new rights and restrictions under a post-Brexit immigration system and most likely a category of those caught in between who will likely have very similar rights to the present situation. Essentially, the transitional category would be those who entered the UK before a certain date, with a legitimate expectation that they would have the rights afforded to them under free movement.
A rose by any other name – a new name for much the same status
EEA nationals who have been working, self-sufficient or studying for at least five years in the UK, automatically acquire “Permanent Residence” under current European Regulations. The UK Government suggests that “Settled Status” will be required. This will be effectively much the same but technically a new status.
The devil is in the detail
The most recent update and the EU’s response, is really just debating the details of the new system, how it will work, it’s requirements and so on. Which hurdles, what costs and whether everyone will need to do it, or just those who don’t already have a Home Office issued document to confirm their Permanent Residence or temporary residence.
Supposedly this will all occur through a new streamlined online process that utilises data already held by Government (eg HMRC records). But past experience suggests that any new technology introduced will suffer considerable functionality issues when it goes online to 3 million waiting applicants. Not to mention the practical difficulties of training thousands of new Home Office employees and ensuring the resources available to process applicants in a reasonable timeframe.
The details are yet to be ironed out and of course, the whole negotiation process could yet be derailed in one of many ways. So for now, we can clearly say that for the vast majority of EEA nationals and their family members in the UK, it remains beneficial to apply for documentation under the current system. Although not perfect, it works, its fees are set at £65 per person and it prevents potential future issues evidencing the holder’s right to work, live, drive and even bank in the UK within the “hostile environment” immigration policy that ensures individuals must evidence their immigration status at every turn. In short, it prevents likely hassle in the near future.