One of the most distasteful aspects of Brexit is the potential challenges facing EU residents who want to remain in the UK after Britain has withdrawn from the union (and indeed Brits who reside in one of the remaining 27 member states).
Because of this, the government is facing fresh calls to issue EU citizens with a physical document post-Brexit, in order to prove that they have the fundamental right to stay in the country over time.
According to a study, nine out of 10 EU citizens in the UK would prefer a card over digital proof of residence in the current social and political climate, with fears of discrimination and the continuation of the so-called ‘hostile environment’ introduced by Theresa May.
How Will the Residence Laws Change Post-Brexit?
With this in mind, it’s also important for EU citizens residing in Britain to understand the upcoming law changes and the steps available to safeguard themselves once the UK has finally left the single bloc.
Fundamentally, nothing will immediately change once the UK has left the EU on 31st January, with the withdrawal agreement providing a short transition period during which the freedom of movement will remain on these shores.
However, this is scheduled to expire on 31st December, 2020 after several months of trade talks between the two parties. While this may yet be extended, EU citizens should strive to settle their long-term status in the UK prior to the end of the transition period.
Being proactive in this respect will ensure that you don’t fall foul of any subsequent law changes post-Brexit, while enabling you to leverage the existing legislation in the Free Movement Directive to secure a right of residence for up to five years (so long as you’re in work or have the requisite financial resources and insurance).
Interestingly, if you’ve already lived in the UK for a period of five years, now is also the ideal time to apply for permanent residence and avoid any potential complications in the future (as laid out in Articles 16 to 18 of EU law).
How May the Law Change on 31st December?
Whether the transition period ends on the 31st December or a mutually agreeable date in 2021 has yet to be seen, while the government has yet to lay out its precise immigration policy in a post-Brexit world.
However, it’s clear that EU citizens will find it more difficult to prove their status after the transition period, as individuals will almost certainly be asked to provide concrete evidence of their right to secure work in the UK or access the NHS.
This is why there are calls for the government to issue physical and legally binding documents to EU citizens, in order to avoid confusion and the onset of another ‘Windrush’ scandal.
There’s also no guarantee that you’ll be able to seek settled status after this data, so it’s far better to act now and seek out tailored advice from immigration lawyers who are well-placedto comment on your circumstances.
After all, while the government promised to protect the rights of EU citizens residing in the UK following the referendum vote in 2016, it has yet to provide the clarity and long-term security that residents deserve.