Millions of EU nationals living in the UK will have to apply to a “settled status” register and might be given ID cards as part of new plans laid out by the Home Office.
The Government’s 15-page policy paper sets out an online application process for the three million EU nationals in the UK to make sure they receive the same rights and benefits as non-European nationals who have lived in the UK for five years.
It is unclear whether the “settled status” would result in an identity card or simply be an entry in a Home Office database.
“I want to completely reassure people that under these plans, no EU citizen currently in the UK lawfully, will be asked to leave at the point the UK leaves the EU,” said Theresa May.
“We want you to stay.”
After Ms May gave a statement on the issue in Parliament, the EU’s Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier tweeted, “More ambition, clarity and guarantees needed than in today’s UK position.”
The 150,000 people who have already applied for permanent resident status since the referendum will have to apply again, but will not have to provide evidence of sickness insurance this time round.
The Home Office processes millions of visas each year. The new “light touch” online system, as described by Ms May, will use existing HMRC documents to save applicants retrieving pay slips from five years ago.
While the Home Office paper said that EU nationals cannot bring a spouse to live with them unless they meet an £18,600 minimum income threshold, Ms May did not mention this in her speech. She said that people with “settled status” would have equal rights to British citizens if they wanted to bring over family members.
EU citizens are yet to see whether they will retain their voting rights in local elections, or whether they will have the protection of the European court of justice, which, under the new plan, will no longer have jurisdiction over their rights in the UK.
Several issues for EU nationals living in the UK, such as healthcare, professional qualifications and rights for self-employed workers, have not been guaranteed.
There are several protections, however, including pensions, and certain security benefits like child benefit.
The need to apply for “settled status” will only become mandatory after the cut-off date, which has not been set.
Former Ukip leader, Nigel Farage, who campaigned to leave the EU and to reform the immigration system, tweeted: “New UK government rules on EU citizens still set no cut-off date. Numbers will continue to grow.”
EU nationals will be given a grace period of up to two years if they can demonstrate five consecutive years of residence in the UK. Ms May said anyone with less than five years, but who arrives in the UK before the country leaves the EU, will be allowed to build up to five years and apply for “settled status”.
After the cut-off date, EU nationals who have not applied will not be allowed to stay in the country, although people can come to the UK after the deadline on a temporary basis and will have the chance to apply for permanent residency.
Any EU national arriving in the UK after the cut-off date will be subject to the new immigration rules, which are yet to be agreed.
Ms May was grilled over the threat of families being broken up if her new plan insists upon a minimum income requirement to bring over a spouse.
“No families will be split up. Family dependents who join a qualifying EU citizen here before the UK’s exit will be able to apply for settled status after five years,” she responded.
“After the UK has left the European Union, EU citizens with settled status will be able to bring family members from overseas on the same terms as British nationals.”
The income requirement raises questions, however, on how EU nationals can bring over parents and other family members.
EU nationals can sign up for Government updates on the status and requirements for living in the UK here.
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