The future of free movement within the UK
I live in rural St Albans, a small and yet highly desirable city in Hertfordshire. It happens also to be the place of my work. St Albans has an attraction that draws many to its local businesses and trades, and many of that workforce represent EU nationals from current EU member countries. In my view, this adds significantly to the attraction of St Albans, its bars, coffee and boutique shops. It's not just attractive because it happens to be a short commute to London but seems also to be a safe place to live, with good schools, good people and a great "vibe".
A key issue for many residents and workers in St Albans in the approach to Brexit will be how the Government proposes to deal with EEA nationals living in the UK post-Brexit. In an attempt to address this, the government has produced a paper: The United Kingdom's Exit from the European Union. The Prime Minister's position appears to be that EEA nationals who arrived in the UK before Article 50 was triggered should be entitled to stay and those who arrive after the 'cut off' date should be given a two year 'grace period' after Brexit to obtain permission to remain in the UK or return to their home country. Interestingly, there is no mention of when the cut off" date will be. The effect of this, if implemented, would be that all current EEA national residents are likely to require advice and assistance in obtaining the necessary permission to remain. Even EEA nationals residing in the UK prior to the triggering of Article 50 are likely to need to formally apply to the Home Office to stay here. In the interim, it is still advisable to apply for a Document Certifying Permanent Residence if you are eligible to do so, and non-EEA family members of EEA nationals should also still apply for residence cards to prove their right to live and work in the UK as the dependent of an EEA national.
The proposal is that a two year transitional period will apply from 29th March 2019. This 'grace period' will allow EEA nationals to regularise their UK status post Brexit. Failure to apply for permission to stay before this two year grace period ends will probably result in the loss of the right to stay in the UK. EEA nationals who acquire permanent residence in the UK before the 'cut-off' date would be given a new "settled status". As mentioned, the "cut-off" date is yet to be determined.
Other considerations will of course apply. Conditions such as length of residency (usually five years), conduct and criminality (good character) will continue to be relevant. However, the proposal is that the highly unpopular requirement that certain applicants have and have held Comprehensive Sickness Insurance (CSI) would be ditched.
Family members of EEA nationals:
The proposal suggests that family members will need to demonstrate five years' residency and be able to evidence that any relationship with the principle EEA national is genuine. Family members of EEA nationals who arrive in the UK after the cut-off date will, it is proposed, have to apply under UK Immigration Rules.
The proposal also states that Irish citizens will not be affected and can remain in the UK, but family members of Irish citizens post Brexit would need to apply under UK Immigration Rules as with any other EEA and non-EEA national.
Children born in the UK to EEA nationals:
This is an important class of person. The Government proposes that children born in the UK to EEA nationals who hold permanent residence before the child's birth will automatically be British. However, children born overseas or children born in the UK to EEA national parents (who do not have permanent residence at the time of the child's birth) will be eligible to apply for indefinite leave to remain, regardless of when the child was born or when they arrived in the UK. For an EEA national parent who arrived in the UK before the "cut-off" date and who needs to apply for permission to stay in the UK post Brexit, they will also need to apply the same permission for their child.
Other important considerations will need to be considered and determined concerning the export of social welfare benefits, pension considerations, the provision of healthcare, matters affecting students and so on. Some issues are likely to be preserved, some will inevitably be affected.
The position of the many EEA nationals living in the UK remains distinctly uncertain. I remain hopeful that my town and its makeup can be preserved. I have no reservation in revealing that I very positively voted remain. St Albans relies and depends upon on hard working EEA nationals and Wells Burcombe will endeavour to ensure that this doesn't change.
If you are affected by this article and require advice on any immigration issue, please call Wells Burcombe on 01727 840900 (St Albans, Hertfordshire), or 01895 449 288 (West Drayton, West London).