All 3 million EU citizens resident in Britain will have to apply for a “settled status” identity card after Brexit under Home Office proposals on their future rights.
A 15-page policy paper proposes a new “light touch” online system to process applications that will give applicants the same “indefinite leave to remain” status as many non-European nationals who have also lived in Britain for five years.
The new EU “settled status” residence document will essentially be an identity card backed up by an entry on a Home Office central database or register.
The policy paper was published as Theresa May issued a statement detailing the government’s proposals on EU citizens after the UK leaves the bloc.
It reveals EU nationals who have applied for permanent residence status documents since the referendum – thought to number more than 150,000 – will be asked to apply again albeit in a streamlined process. Those who have been asked previously to show evidence of comprehensive sickness insurance will no longer have to do so.
The UK offer on the rights of EU nationals makes clear that after Brexit they will lose their right to bring in a spouse to live in Britain without meeting an £18,600 minimum income threshold and possibly their future voting rights in British local elections. They will also lose the protection of the European court of justice, which will no longer have jurisdiction over citizens’ rights in the UK.
But apart from these exceptions, their “settled status” will give them the right to live in Britain, undertake any lawful activity, access public funds and apply for British citizenship.
The UK offer includes guarantees on UK pensions including on uprating and aggregated rights paid out abroad and the ability of settled EU nationals to continue to have social security benefits, such as child benefit, paid in other EU countries.
But several key areas including issues of healthcare, professional qualifications and the rights of the self-employed are put in a negotiating category of “seek to ensure continuity” rather than a UK unilateral guarantee.
The Home Office said it wants to avoid a “cliff edge” in applications the day after Brexit and so will grant a period of up two years grace for EU nationals who can demonstrate five continuous years of residence in Britain.
The Home Office said it will make a blanket assumption that all EU citizens in Britain on the yet to be agreed cutoff date will be given temporary leave under British immigration law. There will be a provision for EU citizens to apply voluntarily before Brexit but it will only be mandatory after the cutoff date. Those who fail to apply within the two-year grace period will no longer have permission to remain in the UK.
The application process is to use existing DWP/HMRC income and wage records to minimise the need for applicants to supply documents such as wage slips going back years. It is expected that most applications will be “straightforward” but the Home Office, which processes millions of visa applications each year, admits the task will be challenging.
The system will also allow those who arrive before the cut-off date to build up five years’ continuous residence after Brexit, but people who arrive after the cut-off point will be subject to the new immigration regime. The Home Office said it has a broad range of options under consideration but will publish proposals shortly.