It is important to stress that for the time being, EEA nationals, and their family members, continue to have free rights of movement.
Nothing has changed for now!
What happens after Brexit continues to cause concern, especially following Prime Minister (PM) Theresa May’s much anticipated speech to European (EU) Leaders in Florence, Italy, on 22 September.
During her speech, PM May wanted to make clear to European Economic Area (EEA) nationals: ‘We want you. We want you to stay’.
Theresa May broadly outlined that a ‘new regime’ would apply to EEA nationals in future. However, there was more details in a leaked Home Office document, exposed by The Guardian newspaper, which found that the Government intends to take away the right of EEA nationals to travel to the UK to look for work, take up employment, study, set up a business, or live self-sufficiently.
And there is more. The end of freedom of movement will not just apply to new EEA nationals travelling to the UK, but will also apply to EEA nationals already exercising Treaty rights in the UK.
Within the leaked paper, the Government proposed that there should be a transitional period from March 2019, of ‘at least 2 years’. Indeed, during her speech, the Prime Minister was equally unclear about the expected length of the transitional period.
During that period, EEA nationals travelling to the UK for the first time will be expected to do so under new rules requiring them to evidence their status by way of a valid European passport. So national ID cards!
Once in the UK, EEA nationals will need to request permission to reside in the UK by registering with the Home Office. At part of the registration process, the Government would like EU nationals to provide their biometric data. That is, fingerprints and digital facial photographs.
For EEA nationals already in the UK, they may apply to ‘upgrade’ their status to a new ‘settled status’.
Theresa May was keen to highlight that businesses would also need this time to adjust and no doubt, to adapt to the new status of EU nationals and new right to work requirements.
After the Transitional period
According to the leaked document, following the end of the transitional period, all freedom of movement rights will cease and the UK immigration rules will apply.
Under those rules, skilled EEA nationals who are ‘considered highly valuable’ to the UK, may apply to work in the UK for up to 5 years, providing certain conditions are met.
What are those conditions? Well, the document mentions that a minimum income threshold may be introduced. Non-EEA nationals working in the UK under a Tier 2 work visa will be well aware of the minimum income threshold!
Indeed, a minimum income threshold may also be introduced for EEA nationals coming to the UK to live self-sufficiently.
The plans seem extremely restrictive. And as you can imagine, the Government’s plans, as revealed in the leaked document, seeks to place great limitations on the freedom of movement of the family members of EEA nationals.
Government plans to restrict the actual family members that may travel with, or join the EEA national in the UK, to partners of the EEA nationals, children under 18 years of age, and adult dependant relatives. Again, this will bring the ability to bring family members into the UK in line with current immigration rules.
Watch this space for further developments.
What can you do?
If you are an EEA national already in the UK, it needs to be stressed again, that nothing has changed for the time being, and that EU negotiations are still underway.
Yet, planning ahead, you may wish to consider applying to certify your permanent residence so that you may apply for British citizenship.
However, the key is to plan and get advice if necessary. If you have family members that you would like to join you in the UK, it may prove more straightforward to do so under the current, more viable, EU regulations. After all, applying for family members to join you in the UK as a British citizen, or even under the new ‘settled status’ could mean greater Home Office application fees and having to meet the strict requirements.
Written by Carla Thomas – Managing Director at Thomas Chase immigration. Thomas Chase Immigration offer immigration help to individuals and families.
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