The future of EEA nationals in the UK
|August 02nd, 2017|
|located in:||United Kingdom|
|tags:||biometric ID, Brexit, EEA nationals, European Union, Permanent Residence, Theresa May, UKCEN, Victoria Sharkey|
Since the Brexit referendum results were announced in June 2016, there has been a sharp rise in the number of EU nationals applying for permanent residence (PR). Further data released by the Home Office highlight a fall in net migration in 2016, which was driven by a 40,000 increase in emigration compared with the previous year, mainly due to EU citizens leaving Great Britain for good.
Victoria Sharkey, managing partner and immigration adviser at Medivisas in London, who has been advising hundreds of PR applicants over the last twelve months, to shed light on the hurdles these citizens face.
What is Medivisas and what is your role within this company?
Medivisas was established in 2005 by myself and Chris Fysh, whom I met at a previous immigration law firm we worked for. We are a small practice and deal with all kinds of immigration: asylum and family appeals, UK family immigration law, ‘Outside the Rules’ applications as well as EEA and EU nationals’ applications.
Thinking about the EEA citizens you used to advice on permanent residence before the Brexit referendum and those you have been advising after the 24th June results, how has the process changed and which new hurdles are applicants facing now?
It was very rare that we did permanent residence applications for EEA nationals. The volume of citizens applying started increasing just before the referendum, as people wanted to sort it out just in case. Since the vote the number of applications has dramatically increased and few months ago the home office has made the process more straightforward by publishing clear guidelines. As a result, they can now process applications faster, which also suits applicants because it is easier for them and we have seen a reduction in the number of PR applications coming through Medivisas. I believe the change is also due to the amount of free good legal advice that is now available through groups like UKCEN. The process itself has not changed much between pre-Brexit and a couple of months ago, neither have the hurdles faced by EEA citizens applying for PR. The main challenge is getting the evidence for those who are self-employed or have gaps in employment while job seeking. Applying is quite straightforward for citizens who have P60s covering all of their 5-year qualifying period, instead.
Do you think the Home Office has changed the guidelines in order to support EEA citizens?
The Home Office is completely overwhelmed, so, they not necessarily have made the changes to facilitate the life of EEA migrants as much as they have changed the application to make it easier for themselves. But it is amazing how the new form has helped applicants.
In June the Government has announced that all EEA citizens will need settled status to keep the right to remain indefinitely in the UK, including those who have already applied for permanent residence. Does the new measure hold anything good for the applicants?
The two main reasons the Government wants to change the status of people with permanent residence documents to settled status is because they want to take biometric ID records and do police checks as already required for non-EEA nationals living in the UK. Whether or not these are reasonable things to want, it is a matter of personal opinion; what concerns me is the possibility of this costing a huge amount of money and whether it is going to involve another lengthy application process. The Government has suggested that it won’t and I would very much hope that they will have a fast track process for citizens with PR documents. The main thing I have been worried about since the Brexit campaign began, is the status of those people who have been in the UK not exercising treaty rights, like stay at home mums, carers of the disabled or people who have disabilities themselves. Among the other possible catches is the status of children who are born before the settled status was given and how this would apply to naturalization.
UK Prime Minister Theresa May has been accused of ‘treating EU citizens like bargaining chips in Brexit bid’. How much can we agree with this statement?
It is naïve to think there is no going to be a bargaining process in a political negotiation. When people are made to feel like bargaining chips, that is a bad thing regardless of the intent; however, there is now the reassurance that people who have not been exercising treaty rights, will not need a comprehensive health insurance to apply for permanent residency. It was the most important point and I hope that from now on everything is going to be more positive.
Does Medivisas offer any pro bono support?
We do some pro bono work when we face a very compassionate case. Other than that, I am part of the UKCEN board, along with other legal professionals and the admin team. The group was established in August 2016 to express purpose of assisting EEA nationals and their family who wish to apply for permanent residence. I have contributed to writing a FAQ document which contains 99 per cent of the information EEA nationals need to know, if they want to apply for their PR documents or citizenship. Whenever a case is too complicated and we mention the applicant needs to see us, then we would charge a consultation fee.
fairplanet has also met Claudia Holmes, founder of UKCEN, which has a membership of 13,000, and this is the agreed final remark from the 26th June UKCEN meeting, as she has highlighted...
We advocate for the UK government to set up a simple and accessible-to-all system of application for the new registration and new settled status systems - we are committed to supporting our members to achieve UK citizenship.
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