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It has been revealed that Britain may be forced to process a staggering 140 years’ worth of visa applications in a single year once the Brexit process begins. This estimation has been predicted in that case that a rush occurs from the 3.5 European citizens that will be applying to secure residency rights once the EU split starts.
This news comes following a report that was published by the Oxford University Migration Observatory (OUMO). Their report outlined that the administrative, as well as the legal burden of filing millions of applications in such a short period of time, would be a ‘formidable task’.
Ministers in response have stated that they expect to protect the long-term status of European migrants already in Britain if the free movement policy comes to an end. It is this promise that would result in such large amount of logistical hurdles.
The government is currently being pressured to operate quickly due to the fact that when restrictions are enforced, those 3.5m European nationals currently residing in the country will need to demonstrate they’re there legally.
Currently, the Home Office deals with about 25,500 permanent residency applications each year from European citizens and their family members. So this highlights just how enormous the task will be considering the rush will cause nearly 140 times that number.
The director of the Observatory, Madeleine Sumption has pointed a hiccup in the system that could cause potential problems in the future. She said it ‘could leave people in the lurch and unable to show that they don’t need a visa to get a job, for example…There is a massive task that lies ahead for the Home Office. Part of that is the sheer number of applicants to be processed. The other thing that will affect the scale of the task is how complex the application is — what criteria people have to meet and what documents they’re expected to produce.’
OUMO also pointed out that groups such as students, retirees and the economically inactive, could find themselves ineligible for permanent residence if they’ve not signed up for mandatory ‘comprehensive sickness insurance’. In total, the above-mentioned groups account for 471,000 of the total number of EU nationals in Britain. Furthermore, the self-employed EU citizens, all 314,000 of them, will struggle if they’re unable to produce the documentation to prove how long they’ve been settled in Britain.
‘There is still a morass of unresolved questions about who will qualify and how’ Ms. Sumption stated. ‘Unless the new process post-Brexit is a lot simpler, there could be quite a lot of EU nationals already living here who are excluded.’
A panel of MP’s has called for preemptive measures already, suggesting local authorities aid the Home Office in registering EU nationals. It was warned that when changes in immigration rules occur, it causes a surge in immigration just before the new rule comes into force. This once more has caused MPs to push that the UK Visas & Immigration directorate be provided with additional resources. It was also recommended that a cut-off date is set – this could either be the exact date of the referendum, the date on which Article 50 is triggered or the date when the UK departs from the EU.
The chair of the Migration Matters Trust, Barbara Roche, said she knew first-hand what a ‘huge challenge’ this was going to pose to the Home Office. ‘Resources are already overstretched, so this is going to be one of the biggest logistical obstacles that the department has ever faced.’
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