Plans have been outlined to grant UK residents from Iceland, Liechtenstein and Norway similar rights post-Brexit as those from EU Member States. These developments have come as engagement between the UK and the three EEA EFTA members intensifies.
Agreement was reached in December 2017 to secure the rights of EU citizens living in the UK and UK citizens living in the 27 EU Member States. Government estimates put the number of people affected as 3 million EU citizens and 1 million UK citizens.
Government officials have met with their EEA EFTA counterparts in order to extend the deal to each other’s citizens.
The existing agreement between the EU and the UK covers residency, healthcare, pensions, mutual recognition of professional qualifications and other benefits. This could be extended to citizens of the three EEA EFTA states and UK citizens resident in these countries. The government estimates there are 18,000 Norwegian nationals, 2,000 Icelandic nationals and 40 Liechtenstein nationals living in the UK, and 15,000 UK nationals in Norway, 800 in Iceland and 60 in Liechtenstein.
EEA EFTA citizens are covered by free movement provisions through the EEA EFTA states’ membership of the European Economic Area Agreement. This allows them to currently move to the UK and other EU states, and similarly UK citizens are able to move to the three EEA EFTA states.
Following their meeting earlier this week the UK and EEA EFTA countries issued the following joint-statement:
Officials from the EEA EFTA States (Iceland, Liechtenstein and Norway) and the United Kingdom met on 12 February 2018 to discuss the agreement reached by the United Kingdom and the European Union on citizens’ rights in December 2017. Positive discussions on these issues took place at the meeting and the parties affirmed their desire to secure the status and protect the rights of UK nationals living in Iceland, Norway and Liechtenstein and nationals of those countries living in the UK.
22 December 2017
The Government has announced that, as part of the agreement reached with the EU, the rights enjoyed by British and Irish citizens under the Common Travel Area (CTA) will be protected after the UK leaves the EU.
The CTA allows for the free movement of British and Irish citizens between the UK, Ireland, the Channel Islands and the Isle of Man. It also guarantees the rights and entitlements to public services of citizens when in the other’s country. The CTA was formed before either the UK or Ireland were members of the EU and means that rights for Irish and UK citizens operate separately and alongside those rights enjoyed by EU nationals.
This means that Irish nationals will not be required to apply for settled status to protect their entitlements in the UK. The right to work, study and access social security and public services will be preserved on a reciprocal basis for UK and Irish nationals.
There will be also be no changes to the current arrangements for journeys between the UK and Ireland. This includes movement across the land border between Ireland and Northern Ireland, protecting the uninhibited movement enjoyed today.
Under the CTA, UK and Irish nationals enjoy a range of reciprocal rights – for example:
- the right to enter and live in each others’ country
- the right to work
- the right to access education
- access to social welfare entitlements and benefits
- access to health services
- access to social housing
- the right to vote in local and parliamentary elections.
In short, Irish citizens residing in Great Britain do not need to do anything to ensure that their family and working lives will continue as they do now. Irish citizens’ rights under the CTA will be protected after the UK leaves the EU. And, specifically, this also applies to Irish citizens residing in Northern Ireland.
Another group of people whose rights will be protected after Brexit are frontier workers. In this particular situation a frontier worker is defined as a citizen of another EU country, living in Ireland and working in Northern Ireland. The UK Government has made that it clear that people in this category will have their rights protected after Brexit has taken place.
19 December 2017
The Home Secretary, Amber Rudd, has written to EU nationals resident in the UK to reassure them about their future in the UK after Brexit.
This follows information provided recently by the Prime Minister, Theresa May, about negotiations and an agreement reached with the EU, details of which can be found here.
Ms Rudd emphasised that the agreement reached would ensure the rights that EU nationals and their families currently have would remain broadly the same after Brexit with access to healthcare, benefits and pensions protected. And close family members living outside the UK would retain the right to join EU nationals in the UK in the future.
Ms Rudd says the Home Office has been working hard to build the digital system that EU nationals will use use to get their new settled status. She says it is being designed from scratch to be quick and simple to use. She maintains that there won’t be bureaucratic hurdles – those processing applications will work in favour of applicants.
Ms Rudd also confirmed that the application for settled status will cost no more than the fee a British person pays for a passport. If an applicant already has valid permanent residence documentation then the application process will be free. She says there will be support for vulnerable people and those without access to a computer. And the Government is consulting with EU citizens’ representatives and embassies to ensure the system works for everyone.
Ms Rudd says more detail about the settled status scheme will be released in the new year. It is expected that applications will open during the second half of 2018.
11 December 2017
The Prime Minister, Theresa May, has further clarified the rights of EU citizens after Brexit. Her comments follow the conclusion of the latest round of negotiations with the European Commission.
The assurances the Prime Minister made included:
- That the rights of EU citizens will be written into UK law.
- That those rights will be enforced by UK courts. Where appropriate, UK courts will pay due regard to relevant European Court of Justice (ECJ) case law, and where existing case law is not clear – UK courts will be able to choose to ask the ECJ for an interpretation prior to reaching their decision.
- A new settled status scheme will be introduced for EU citizens and their family members.
Key features of the new settled status scheme will be:
- If an EU citizen already has five years of continuous residence in the UK at Brexit (29 March 2019) – they will be eligible for settled status.
- If they have been here for less than five years they will be able to stay until they reach the five year threshold.
- EU citizens with settled status can be joined in the UK by close family members after the UK has left the EU. This includes existing spouses, unmarried partners, children, dependent parents and grandparents.
- Healthcare rights, pension and other benefit provisions will remain the same as they are today.
- EU citizens with settled status will be able to be absent from the UK for up to five years without losing their status – more than double the period allowed under current EU law.
The agreement reached with the EU includes reciprocal rules to protect existing decisions to recognise professional qualifications – for example for doctors and architects.
The Government says it will introduce a transparent, smooth and streamlined process to enable EU citizens to apply for settled status from the second half of next year. And it says the process will cost no more than applying for a passport. And if you already have a valid permanent resident document you will be able to have your status converted to settled status free of charge.
The Government also says that it is working closely with Switzerland and EEA Member States to ensure their citizens in the UK also benefit from these arrangements.
The latest advice from the government, dated 7 November 2017, has set out more details of a new settled status scheme for EU citizens.
The government says the new system will be streamlined, low-cost and user-friendly. EU citizens will also be consulted on its design.
EU citizens wanting to remain in the UK after Brexit will not have their applications refused on minor technicalities. Caseworkers considering applications will exercise discretion and the government expects most cases to be granted.
The latest proposals from the government commit to:
- giving EU citizens 2 years after Brexit to apply for settled status
- minimising the documents applicants need to provide
- enabling caseworkers to contact applicants to resolve minor issues
- making the cost similar to a British passport
- giving unsuccessful applicants a right of appeal
- introducing a digital, streamlined and user friendly application system
- not requiring EU citizens to have sickness insurance or provide fingerprints
- a simpler, lower cost process for those who already have permanent residence documentation
For the latest information about the status of EU citizens in the UK visit GOV.uk
With effect from Autumn 2017, non-EU travellers will no longer be required to fill out a landing card on arrival to the UK. The proposed changes were announced in August and included a short consultation period with carriers, ports and people who use the statistics gathered through landing cards. The changes are expected to affect over 16 million passengers every year.
Landing cards have been used to collect basic information about travellers since 1971, and cost around £3.6 million every year. The Border Force are looking to replace the paper-based system with a new digital one as part of their ongoing move to digital border controls.
Under the new system passengers from outside the UK will go through the same checks, including those against security and immigration watch lists. Passengers will no longer need to fill out cards on board flights or at airports, and it is hoped the changes will lead to reduced wait times at immigration with the use of e-gates. The Border Force has also increased the use of Advance Passenger Information, with systems in place to receive data on every scheduled flight in and out of the UK.
The Home Office have announced that they will conduct an independent assessment of the role that EU citizens play in the UK economy and society. The report has been commissioned over a year after the referendum vote to leave the EU, and its results will be delivered in September 2018, seven months before the Brexit deadline.
The review will be carried out by the Migration Advisory Committee (MAC) and will look into to focus the study on patterns of EU and EEA (European Economic Area) migration, considering regional distribution; skill levels; industry sectors and the role of the self-employed, part-time, agency, temporary and seasonal workers. The review will focus on the situation post-Brexit which means it will not relate to EU citizens who are already living in the UK.
The full set of questions given to the MAC are as follows:
EU and EEA Migration
Aligning the UK immigration system with a modern industrial strategy
- What is the current impact of immigration, both EU, EEA and non-EEA, on the competitiveness of UK industry, including on productivity, innovation and labour market flexibility?
- What impact does immigration have on skills and training?
- Is there any evidence that the free availability of unskilled labour has contributed to the UK’s relatively low rate of investment in some sectors?
- Are there advantages to focusing migrant labour on highly skilled jobs or across the entire skills spectrum?
- Does the shortage occupation list need to be amended to include skills shortages at lower skills levels than NQF6?
The UK Government has already published its initial position with regards to EU citizens in the UK in a technical note along with some guidance for EU citizens living in the UK. The UK government have already confirmed the following:
- EU citizens with settled status – those who have been here for five or more years – will continue to be treated as if they were UK nationals for education, healthcare, benefits, pensions and social housing after we leave the EU.
- No EU citizen currently in the UK lawfully will be asked to leave when the UK leaves the EU. There will be a two-year transitional period for EU citizens to apply for permanent residence.
- The process to apply for settled status will be streamlined and user friendly, and up and running by 2018.
However, various things are still to be confirmed, including what rights EU citizens will have to vote, and how much time they will be able to spend outside the UK after Brexit.
The UK government has published a document laying out their proposal for the rights of EU citizens who are long-term residents of the UK after Brexit.
The policy paper, The United Kingdom’s exit from the European Union: safeguarding the position of EU citizens living in the UK and UK nationals living in the EU, has been published on the GOV.uk website and details what the UK government would like to happen.
As has been reported in the press, the government is offering EU citizens who have been in the UK for five years or more similar rights to people who have been granted permanent residence. This is intedned to be applied with a ‘light touch’ process to make applications easy. EU citizens applying will keep their rights to live and work, as well as access to public funds.
However, under government plans, EU citizens will no longer be able to sponsor spouses or partners to come to the UK unless they can meet the salary threshold of £18,600 per annum. They will also no longer be able to vote in local authority elections and may have to apply for an ID card and provide biometric information to the Home Office.
Certain rights have not been guaranteed under the proposal either. These include access to healthcare, rights for self-employed workers and the status of professional qualifications gained in the EU, which the government has said they will ‘seek to ensure’, rather than guarantee them.
The UK government have also published several case studies, explaining what would happen in certain situations.
Key figures in the EU, including Jean-Claude Juncker, President of the European Commission, and Donald Tusk, the President of the European Council, have said the offer doesn’t isn’t enough.
The EU published their document, Position paper on “Essential Principles on Citizens’ Rights”on 12th June 2017.
We expect the details of these offers to change as negotiations continue. These documents, however, provide an idea of possible outcomes for EU citizens in the UK.
With effect from 1st June 2017, all customer enquiries to the Visa Office will be handled by a private company called Sitel UK. This means that there will be changes in contact details and how enquiries are handled. New service charges have also been introduced.
The service has been contracted out as part of the Conservative government’s drive to reduce costs and ensure migrants in ‘the UK immigration system make an appropriate contribution’. Along with increases in visa fees and changes to salary thresholds in visa categories, this serves to make applying to the Visa Office a more expensive process.
Under the new system, the following changes will happen to anyone applying from outside the UK:
- all phone numbers and opening hours will change
- the number of languages offered is reducing to 8 including English
- customers who contact UK Visas and Immigration by email will be charged £5.48
The charges for email enquiries must be paid using a credit or debit card but will include the original enquiry and any follow-up emails to the same contact centre about the same enquiry. If you do not have access to a credit or debit card you will have to find a trusted person to help you with this, such as an agent or sponsor.
There are no changes to the telephone service, or for enquiries made from within the UK.