Brexit, Settled Status & EU Nationals

Thomas Chase Immigration - Brexit, Settled Status

The UK government has set out its negotiation position with the European Union (EU), on the future status of approximately 3 million EU nationals currently exercising Treaty rights in the UK. The published information provides an outline of the government’s position on a ‘new settled status’, but is very short on detail. Here, we review the latest government proposals and their possible impact for EU nationals and their families.

Settled Status
A new ‘special settled status’ was announced by Prime Minister, Theresa May on 26 June 2017, aimed at granting EU nationals “the right to live in Britain, to undertake any lawful activity, to access public funds and to apply for British citizenship.”

The proposals will allow EU nationals to acquire or transfer their permanent status into a special settled status, thereby bringing them within the restrictive UK immigration laws that currently apply to nationals outside of the European Economic Area (EEA).

Let’s look at the proposals in more detail. As part of the UK government’s wish to ‘safeguard’ the rights of EU nationals in the UK, the government said it will:

  • Comply in full with its legal obligations, including in respect of administrative procedures for providing documentation for those exercising Treaty rights until such time as the UK leaves the UK;

 

  • Create new rights in UK law for qualifying EU citizens, resident here before the UK’s exit from the EU. Those rights will be enforceable in the UK legal system and will provide legal guarantees for those EU. In addition, the Court of Justice of the European Union (CJEU) will not have jurisdiction in the UK;

 

  • These rights will apply to all EU citizens equally and the UK government will not treat citizens of one member state differently to those of another qualifying EU citizens will have to apply for their residence status. The administrative procedures which they will need to comply with in order to obtain these new rights will be modernised and kept as smooth and simple as possible;

 

  • Bring the application process under a separate legal scheme, in UK law, rather than the current one for certifying the exercise of rights under EU. The UK government intends to tailor the eligibility criteria so that, for example, it will no longer require evidence that economically inactive EU citizens have previously held ‘comprehensive sickness insurance’ in order to be considered continuously resident;

 

  • Provide all qualifying EU citizens adequate time to apply for their new residence status after the UK leaves the UK. There will be no ‘cliff-edge’ at the point of the UK’s withdrawal from the EU;

 

  • Guarantee that qualifying individuals will be granted settled status in UK law (indefinite leave to remain pursuant to the Immigration Act 1971). This means they will be free to reside in any capacity and undertake any lawful activity, to access public funds and services and to apply for British citizenship;

 

  • Allow EU nationals to qualify for the new settled status as long as they were resident in the UK before a specified date and must have completed a period of 5 years’ continuous residence in the UK before they apply for settled status. They must also still be resident in the UK at that point to qualify;

 

  • Allow EU citizens who arrived and became resident before the specified date, but who have not accrued five years’ continuous residence at the time of the UK’s exit from the EU, to apply for temporary status in order to remain resident in the UK. Once those EU nationals have resided in the UK for 5 years, they will be eligible to apply for settled status;

 

  • Allow EU citizens who arrived after the specified date, to remain in the UK for at least a temporary period. They may become eligible to settle permanently, depending on their circumstances. However, this group should ‘have no expectation of guaranteed settled status’;

 

  • Allow family dependants, who join a qualifying EU citizen in the UK before the UK’s exit from the EU, to apply for settled status after 5 years. The 5 years’ period includes time accrued after Brexit. Those joining after the UK’s exit will be subject to the same rules as those joining British citizens or alternatively to the post-exit immigration arrangements for EU citizens who arrive after the specified date;

 

  • Define the ‘specified date’ as no earlier than the 29 March 2017, the date the formal Article 50 process for exiting the EU was triggered, and no later than the date of the UK’s withdrawal from the EU. The specified date will be agreed with the EU as part of delivering a reciprocal deal; and

 

  • Apply rules to exclude those who are serious or persistent criminals and those whom we consider a threat to the UK.

It cannot be stressed enough that the above proposals are just that, proposals. The proposals will form part of the UK’s negotiations with the EU and is likely to change or bend as time progresses. Regardless, as they stand, they will have a huge impact on EU nationals’ ability to work, study and unite with family members in the UK.

Summary

The new settled status will apply to EU nationals and their family members who are currently exercising Treaty rights in the UK, but have not yet acquired 5 years’ continuous residence, and will also be applicable to EU nationals that have already applied to the Home Office to certify their permanent residence status.

Applying for the new settled status will be done under a ‘fast- track process’.

Great. Some information has been provided. And yet, so much has been left unsaid.

  • What will the fast track process look like?
  • How does the government intend to fast-track the applications for the large number of EU nationals in the UK?
  • It is not clear if the application process for the new settled status will differ for EU nationals that have already gone through the onerous process of applying to certify their permanent residence status and supplied a great deal of documents, as compared to those that had not certified their permanent residence status at all.
  • How will settled status for EU nationals already in the UK, differ from the settled status for EU nationals arriving after the ‘specified date’?
  • Will EU nationals arriving after the cut-off date see a restricted definition of ‘family members’ as seen under the current UK immigration rules?
  • Will EU nationals that had certified their permanent residence status be expected to complete another form and submit masses of documents again?
  • What is the specified cut-off date?

Another key omission? Fees. How much will EU nationals be expected to pay to apply for the new settled status? For instance, national from outside of the European Economic Area (EEA) can expect to pay £2,297 (fees as applied from 6 April 2017 and current as of today’s date). Compare that to an application to certify permanent residence, currently £65.

Will EU nationals be expected to pay hundreds or even thousands of pounds for settled status? We don’t yet know although the UK government proposes that fees will be reasonable.

And will the fast-track system be offered as standard or will a premium fee be attached? We also do not know.

What is clear is that some EU nationals are holding off making an application to certify permanent residence status and instead waiting for details of the new settled status. The merits of doing so will of course depend on each individual and their circumstances.

Settled status, students and the self-sufficient

At present, EU nationals in the UK as students or who are self-sufficient, are required to hold comprehensive sickness insurance (CSI). Without CSI, such EU nationals are deemed not to have exercised their Treaty rights in the UK.

The government has proposed that CSI will not be a requirement for EU nationals seeking the new settled status.

Permanent residence and British citizenship

What factors should EU nationals factor into their decision making?

Well, not all EU nationals are eager to apply for British citizenship or meet the requirements for British citizenship. In fact, some nationals are precluded from holding dual nationality by their home country.

For those keen to secure British citizenship, applying to certify permanent residence status, especially for those already exercising their Treaty rights in the UK for 5 years and over, can be beneficial. Why? Because it may be a ‘quicker’ route to naturalising as a British citizen.

When applying for British citizenship, EU nationals have been exercising Treaty rights for 5 years, at which point they will acquire permanent residence. Thereafter, they must apply to the Home Office to certify their permanent residence and hold such recognised status for a further 12 months.

Examples

For example, one of our client’s Eliana, owned and ran her own business in the UK for the past 8 years and successfully applied for British nationality. Eliana first applied to certify her permanent residence status on the basis that she could evidence exercising her Treaty rights as a self-employed person for the past 7 years. Not the easiest of exercises but Eliana only managed to obtain 7 years of the recommended documentary evidence.

We prepared the application and asked the Home Office to not only certify Eliana’s permanent residence status for the past 5 years, but for the past 7 years. This was duly done and allowed Eliana to immediately apply for British citizenship without waiting for a further 12 months.

Equally, another client had her permanent residence status recognised based on her UK activities over the past 5 years. After 12 months’ she may apply for British citizenship, well before the UK formally leaves the EU, assuming the cut-off date is when the UK officially leaves the EU.

This option may be far ‘quicker’ route to British citizenship as compared to applying for settled status, once it is rolled out, and holding that status for an additional 12 months. At the moment, there is nothing to say that the new settled status will be retrospective in law.

Family members

There are good reasons to wait and delay making an application British citizenship. One of which is related to family members. Under EU regulations, EU national exercising Treaty rights in the UK, are entitled to have their direct and indirect family members join them in the UK.  This includes non-EEA family members.

Once the EU national becomes a British citizen, family reunion becomes restricted, onerous and expensive.

An EU national sponsoring a non-EEA spouse to join the in the UK can be as (relatively) straightforward as submitting a EEA family permit application at zero cost.

Doing so as a British citizen means meeting the financial requirements and earning a salary of at least £18,600 per annum, and Home Office fees in the region of £1400 plus an Immigration Health Surcharge of approximately £600.

And applying for an elderly parent to a British citizen in the UK is extremely difficult, with extended family members such as cousins and uncles being almost impossible.

Conclusion

The government has laid out its proposals, for a new settled status, for EU nationals exercising Treaty rights in the UK and for those arriving after the UK formally leaves the EU. Nevertheless, the proposals are extremely light on details, making it difficult for EU nationals to assess the best way forward. That is, whether to apply to certify their permanent residence status, thereafter apply for British citizenship, or simply wait and see how the plans for new settled status materialise.

Much will depend on the circumstances of the individual EU national, and we have listed some of those considerations above. And of course, we must remember that the proposals, at least for now, are just that…published plans to be negotiated with the EU. As such, they are subject to change. So we will watch this space and keep you updated.

 

Written by Carla Thomas – Managing Director at Thomas Chase immigration. Thomas Chase Immigration offer immigration solutions to businesses, individuals and families looking for friendly, straightforward advice.

Call to action

If you would like further guidance on the rights of EU citizens or assistance with an application for a permanent residence document, contact us at Thomas Chase Immigration to arrange a consultation. Or learn more about immigration from our blogs.

 

You may also like:

EEA permit applications and processing times

Permanent Residence to British citizenship: Is it worth the hassle?

Overseas Visitors and UK Healthcare

We look at overseas visitors to the UK from the EEA and non EEA countries and and access to healthcare

It is holiday season and millions of travellers from all over the world are expected the visit the UK. Most visitors will have adequate medical insurance. Yet what happens if your travel insurance doesn’t go far enough or you don’t have travel insurance at all, but require healthcare. And what impact will rule changes have from October 2017. We answer those questions, and more, in this post on overseas visitors and healthcare.

In 2015, there were 36.1 million visitors to the UK from overseas visitors, 5.1% higher than in 2014. In 2016, the number of overseas visits to the UK reached record levels of 37.6 million. 

Access to healthcare treatment during a person’s travels depends on whether the visitor is travelling from within or outside of Europe.

EEA NATIONALS

For those visitors to the UK, from within the Economic European Area (EEA), it is recommended to apply for the European Health Insurance Card (EHIC). The EHIC entitles EEA nationals to access necessary treatment at a reduced cost, or sometimes at no cost, in certain European countries with state provided healthcare, and is free.

Treatment for pre-existing medical conditions are covered. Yet, the EHIC has its limitations. For instance, it will not cover private medical healthcare costs such as the cost of being flown back to the European country of residence. And while routine maternity care is covered, it will not cover the cost of specifically travelling to the UK to give birth within the UK’s National Health Service (NHS)

For this reason, it is highly recommended that EEA nationals travelling to the UK on holiday hold both an EHIC card and valid and adequate travel insurance.

Only EEA nationals from the following countries are required to hold adequate medical and travel insurance and need not possess a EHIC:

  • The Channel Islands, including Guernsey, Alderney and Sark
  • The Isle of Man
  • Monaco
  • San Marino
  • The Vatican

If an EEA national visiting the UK finds themselves in need of medical treatment, they may dial 112, the free European emergency number, for immediate assistance.

The EU Directive route

The European Union (EU) Directive route entitles EEA visitors to purchase NHS or private healthcare in England and seek reimbursement for medically necessary treatment from their country of residence. The reimbursements are limited to the amount the treatment would normally cost in their home country. It does not cover emergency treatment and prior authorisation may be required

NON-EEA VISITORS

Visitors to England, more specifically, from outside of the EEA must have personal medical provisions or travel insurance to cover for the length of their visit.

If a visitor requires certain emergency treatment, the NHS will not turn the person away and some NHS services and treatments are free, making them exempt from charges.

These include:

  •  Accident and emergency services
  • Family planning services though it does not include infertility treatment
  • Treatment for most infectious diseases, including sexually transmitted infections (STIs)
  • Treatment required for a physical or mental condition caused by torture, female genital mutilation (FGM), domestic violence or sexual violence and yet charges will apply if the visitor enters England for the purpose of seeking that treatment

What happens if they then seek unplanned medical treatment from the NHS? Unfortunately, it’s not uncommon visitors to book their travel and omit or forget to purchase travel insurance or even seek the minimum travel insurance cover available. In such cases, overseas visitors receive a medical bill for fees chargeable at 150% of the NHS standard rate. Ouch!

Different rules apply for overseas visitors requiring medical assistance in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.

It is also worth pointing out that some non-EEA visitors may be exempt from NHS charges. They include those traveling for longer than 6 months to work, to study or join family members, as they will have paid a separate Immigration Health Surcharge.

Changes to Healthcare rules from October 2017

As of 23 October 2017, non-EEA nationals must pay for non-urgent treatment and services, in advance. Visitors will be given an estimate of the treatment costs and will be expected to pay for this upfront, or treatment will not be provided.

From October 2017, failure to pay such charges will adversely impact upon any future immigration applications.

Reciprocal Agreements

Exemptions also apply to visitors from countries that have reciprocal healthcare agreements with the UK.

The reciprocal agreements entitle visitors, from specified countries, to access immediate emergency medical treatment free of charge. They are:

  • Anguilla
  • Australia
  • Bosnia and Herzegovina
  • British Virgin Islands
  • Falkland Islands
  • Gibraltar
  • Isle of Man
  • Jersey
  • Kosovo
  • Macedonia
  • Montenegro
  • Montserrat
  • New Zealand
  • Serbia
  • St Helena
  • Turks and Caicos Islands

The nature and access to free treatment will differ for each country under their respective reciprocal agreements. http://www.nhs.uk/NHSEngland/Healthcareabroad/countryguide/NonEEAcountries/Pages/Non-EEAcountries.aspx

The agreements do not normally apply when the person has travelled to the UK for the purpose of obtaining healthcare.

There are non-EEA countries which previously held reciprocal healthcare agreements with the UK. Those agreements came to an end on 2016. As a result, visitors from the following countries must ensure they have adequate travel and health insurance, as they will be charged for accessing healthcare and treatment on the NHS.

  • Armenia
  • Azerbaijan
  • Barbados
  • Belarus
  • Georgia
  • Kazakhstan
  • Kyrgyzstan
  • Moldova
  • Russia
  • Tajikistan
  • Turkmenistan
  • Ukraine
  • Uzbekistan

On another note, from 21 August 2017, employers of overseas visitors working on UK-registered ships will be charged for NHS fees incurred.

Conclusion

With travel season well underway, it is important, whether you are from within the EEA or a non-EEA national, to know what emergency and non-urgent treatment and services you can access in the UK. Having adequate travel and medical insurance can provide a great deal of comfort, but if that, for whatever, reason is not the case, there may be other measures in place to help you get the treatment you need at reduced costs. By being informed, you can ensure you have a safe and enjoyable holiday, avoid a huge bill and at worse, for non-EEA nationals in particular, prevent adverse consequences in any future immigration applications.

Happy travels!

 

Key information

Call 999 if someone is seriously ill or injured and their life is at risk

Call NHS 111 if you urgently need medical help or advice but it’s not a life-threatening situation. You can also call NHS 111 if you’re not sure which NHS service you need.

 

Written by Carla Thomas – Managing Director at Thomas Chase immigration. Thomas Chase Immigration provide an end-to-end immigration service to individuals and families to help make the process as smooth as possible

Call to action

If you would like further guidance or assistance with an immigration matter, contact us at Thomas Chase Immigration to arrange a consultation. Or learn more about immigration from our blogs.