The UK government may require about 140 years to register the over 3 million EU citizens already living in the country, a new report published by the Migration Observatory at the University of Oxford shows.
The analysis – ‘Here today, gone tomorrow? The status of EU citizens already living in the UK’ – examines the existing process that EU citizens can use to apply for permanent residence.
Although the government has signalled that it ‘expects’ to protect the long-term status of EU migrants already living here if the UK decides to end free movement, the report shows that the process of doing this may be complex.
According to the report, if all EEA citizens already living in the UK in early 2016 applied for permanent residence at once, this would represent the equivalent of around 140 years’ worth of work at recent rates of processing for this type of application.
Madeleine Sumption, Director of the Migration Observatory at the University of Oxford, said: “Depending on how long Brexit negotiations take, the government may need to register EU citizens already living here quite quickly. Given the sheer number of EU citizens who would need to register and the potential complexity of the process, this will be a formidable task.”
Should the existing rules for registering EU citizens as permanent residents be used as the model for a post-Brexit registration process, a substantial minority of EU citizens could find themselves ineligible despite having lived in the country for several years.
Immigration lawyers report that there is particular confusion around the current permanent residence rules for students and self-sufficient people such as retirees, who may not know that they are expected to have comprehensive sickness insurance while in the UK.
Sumption added: “This is an area of law that has not received much attention so far, but it is about to become a lot more important. Around a third of applications are either refused or deemed invalid because they do not include all the right paperwork. With a much larger number of people now in the pipeline, the complexity of the process is likely to come under scrutiny.”