As we move towards Brexit, the Home Office has started to take steps to confirm the ‘streamlined’ and ‘low cost’ application process they envisage for EU nationals wishing to live in the UK from 2019 onwards. New guidance was published on the Home Office website on 7 November 2017, and this article extracts the key points to know:
- At the ‘cut-off date’ (still unconfirmed but looking increasingly likely to be the date on which the UK leaves the EU), EU nationals living in the UK will be required to apply for UK immigration status. For those who have completed 5-years’ residence by that time, the application will be for ‘settled status’. For those who are under the 5-year threshold, a grace period of 2 years will allow further temporary residence.
- The Home Office aims to take a ‘proportionate approach’ to those who have not made the appropriate application at the end of the 2-year period. In short, if there are valid reasons for an application not having been made, then an opportunity will be given to correct the omission.
- The requirements to meet for ‘settled status’ will be the same as those applicable in an application for permanent residence under current regulations; an EU national will need to prove that they have 5 years’ continuous and lawful residence in the UK as a worker, self-employed person, student, self-sufficient person, or family member of an EU citizen.
- The aim is for the application process to be ‘streamlined’ and ‘user friendly’, with digital assistance available where possible. The cost is proposed to be no more than a British passport (currently £72.50), and the aim is to minimise the documentary burden of applying. A new online application system should be introduced integrated with other government records (such as HMRC) to allow applications to be processed quickly.
- A ‘pragmatic approach’ to considering applications is promised. Significantly, requirements relating to comprehensive sickness insurance will be relaxed from the current position, benefitting many students and self-sufficient persons, such as non-working partners unaware of the current requirement to hold this for 5 years. In addition, the current ‘genuine worker’ test is likely to be relaxed, along with scrutiny of periods where an individual has been undocumented. A holistic view will be adopted to look at an individual’s circumstances in the round. Finally, there will be no need to recall each and every absence from the UK during your qualifying period.
- For those EU nationals already holding a permanent residence card under current regulations, a short application to exchange this document for a ‘settled status’ document will be required. This will cost less than the full application (although no price has been confirmed) and should require very limited documentation.
Overall, the plan suggests that the future application process will reduce the evidential burden on applicants seeking to prove their qualifying residence. The stated approach to contentious issues such as comprehensive sickness insurance and absences is encouraging, and may urge those who are currently struggling with such matters to delay until the new process is in place. For those with straightforward circumstances, it remains clear that securing a current permanent residence card is a good way to simplify the process in 2019, giving a greater sense of stability now.
If you would like to talk to one of our experts about your immigration matter, please call our Manchester office on 0161 234 6800 or Liverpool on 0151 305 9600.