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After months of confusion for the 3 million EU citizens living in the UK, the government has finally provided an outline of what will happen to their rights after the UK leaves the EU. The policy paper was published yesterday (26th June) and outlines the UK’s offer to EU citizens to allow them to maintain their rights after Brexit.
The policy document has already been criticised for not going far enough to protect the rights of EU citizens. The biggest criticism comes from the revelation that the 135,000 EU citizens who applied for EEA PR in the wake of the referendum will have to apply again. Those who have been granted EEA PR or applied for an EEA Registration Certificate will need to apply again as the Prime Minister has proposed a new category known as “Settled Status”. Unfortunately, any previous settlement documents will not be transferable to the new category and all 3 million EU citizens will have to apply again.
The newly proposed immigration status will allow those who have been resident in the UK for more than 5 years to apply for settled status, which is the equivalent of Indefinite Leave to Remain. This will give them access to healthcare, education and benefits as has been the case in the past. Those who have been here for less than 5 years will have the opportunity to complete their 5 year period and then apply for settled status.
According to the government policy paper, there is no need to act yet. Firstly, this policy was released in order to receive a reciprocal offer from the EU counterparts, so a lot could change between now and the final deal. However, this is the first indication of how post-Brexit immigration controls could work for EU citizens. Secondly, as the UK is still in the EU, there is no change to policy or immigration controls, so EU citizens won’t need to act until after the Brexit deadline, and even this could be extended. There is also expected to be a grace period between the Brexit deadline and the implementation of the new settled status category.
After Brexit, if the settled status immigration category goes ahead, then businesses who hire workers from the EU will need to check that their workers have gained settled status documentation. As mentioned above, nothing has changed yet, so businesses don’t need to worry about asking for settled status documents until after the Brexit deadline.
In a press release on the Home Office website, the Prime Minister Theresa May said: “EU citizens are an integral part of the economic, cultural and social fabric of our country and I have always been clear that I want to protect their rights.” She also calls for the EU to offer a reciprocal deal for the 1 million British citizens who have settled throughout Europe. Although both sides want a good deal for their citizens, there are still many details which will need to be worked out before the EU can agree and offer a reciprocal deal.