Free Movement Fact Sheet
Current position, rights, and FAQs
We have received a lot of enquires from EEA nationals in the UK, and we want to address their concerns. In this factsheet, we have tried to provide answers and guidance for the most commonly asked questions. However, we cannot provide legal advice, and this factsheet should not be interpreted as such. If you find your question is not answered below, please do not hesitate to contact my office on firstname.lastname@example.org.
Current position of EEA nationals in the UK
- On the 11th of July 2016, the Government affirmed that the status of EEA nationals has not changed as a result of the vote to leave the EU.
- All EU citizens have a right to reside in another EU Member State for up to three months without any conditions other than the requirement to hold a valid identity card or passport.
- After three months, certain conditions apply to their residency varying according to the status of the EU citizen-whether they’re a worker, student, self-sufficient (a citizen who is living off their own savings and not working), retired, a jobseeker, self-employed, or fall into none of these categories.
- EU citizens who have resided legally for a continuous period of five years within the UK automatically acquire the right to permanent residence.
- To qualify for permanent residence, students and the self-sufficient must possess comprehensive sickness insurance cover through the five year period.
We expect the Brexit talks to address the question of people's rights to remain in the country in which they have settled, but do not yet know exactly how the issue will be dealt with.
Permanent residency and British citizenship
- Approximately 85% of the 3.6 million EU citizens currently in the UK will have been in the UK for at least five years by the time that the UK leaves the EU. This will mean that, largely, these EU nationals are likely to qualify for permanent residency in the UK by the time Britain leaves the EU.
- This will be dependent on what date the Government decides will be the cut-off date for EU nationals, which would decide from what official point, and how long, they will have been resident in the UK before acquiring rights after Brexit.
- EU residents who have been resident ‘continuously and lawfully’ in the UK for 5 or more years can apply for a permanent residency document, proving their permanent residence status.
- More information on how to apply for a permanent residency certificate can be found here: https://www.gov.uk/eea-registration-certificate/permanent-residence
- EU nationals who have held a permanent residency document are eligible to apply for British citizenship.
- Information regarding how to apply for British citizenship can be found here: https://www.gov.uk/becoming-a-british-citizen/check-if-you-can-apply
- If you do wish to apply for confirmation of your EEA status, you can now make use of the new European Passport Return Service. This will allow you to retain your passport whilst your application is considered.
More information about the European Passport Return Service can be found here: https://www.gov.uk/government/collections/european-passport-return-service
- If you have made an application and your passport is with the Home Office then you are able to request your passport back to enable you to travel. You can do this by making a return of documents request here: https://eforms.homeoffice.gov.uk/outreach/Return_of_Documents.ofml
1. As a current EU resident in Britain, do I have the right to stay here?
There is a lot of pressure being placed on the Government to protect the rights of EU nationals.
This has come from the public, but also the House of Lords, which recently tried to pass an Labour amendment on the European Union (Notification of Withdrawal) Bill 2017 guaranteeing the rights of EU nationals regardless of the terms of Brexit. This was later blocked by the Government.
Under Labour pressure, the Government has reiterated that the rights of EU nationals would be a key priority in the upcoming Brexit negotiations. The Labour Party reiterated in its Brexit manifesto, released on the 25th of April 2017, that it would unilaterally guarantee the right of current EU residents to remain in Britain.
2. How could Brexit affect my partner and family?
Many constituents have been concerned about the ability of their extended family members to live in the UK.
There are concerns that after Britain leaves the EU, EU nationals wishing to settle in the UK will be subject to similar rules and regulations to those which currently govern non-EEA citizens.
These are altogether more expensive, rigorous and complex, and may require legal assistance to prepare for. However, as Brexit terms have yet to be discussed, it is unclear whether these rules and regulations will be applied to the extended families of EU nationals.
There are also concerns from EU nationals who are worried about bringing non-EEA family members to live with them in the UK. At the moment, non-EEA members acquire rights when they move to live with EU nationals in the UK. The terms of Brexit could put these rights in jeopardy.
For more information about the current rights for the families of EEA nationals, please follow this link:
3. What is comprehensive sickness insurance? Do I need it, and how could it impact me if applying for permanent residency in the UK?
Certain categories of EU citizens are required to take out health insurance whilst they are in the UK to ensure that they are meeting the requirements of the Immigration (European Economic Area) Regulations 2016.
Both students and those who are self-sufficient have to apply for comprehensive sickness insurance to be deemed ‘lawfully resident.’ Whilst EU nationals have access to the NHS, this does not count as having comprehensive sickness insurance cover, as upheld by the Court of Appeal in 2014.
Those who are workers, self-employed or jobseekers do not have to apply for Comprehensive Sickness Insurance in order to be deemed lawfully resident.
If an EU national who is a student or self-sufficient, or their family, wishes to apply for permanent residency in the UK, they have to have been ‘lawfully’ resident in the UK for 5 or more years. Any time that a EU national student or self-sufficient, and their families, have been resident in the UK without Comprehensive Sickness Insurance will not count as part of their five years. We are aware that many EU residents have not been aware of these stipulations, which have not been well publicised.
If you do not currently have Comprehensive Sickness insurance and decide to take it out now, then this will only be valid from the date that you have taken it out. It cannot be backdated.
However, the Home Office have confirmed that you will not be at risk of being removed from the UK, and you will not face any criminal or civil sanctions for being without Comprehensive Sickness Insurance.
4. How will Brexit affect UK citizens resident abroad?
In the Government White Paper, ‘The Process for Withdrawing from the European Union’, it is stated that Britons in the EU should not assume that rights currently available to them under free movement rules ‘would be guaranteed’ if the UK were to vote to leave the EU.
Whether or not UK nationals resident outside the UK will be allowed to remain will depend on the deal that can be struck between the EU and Theresa May. The EU has already expressed an interest in delivering reciprocal rights so that Britons abroad get similar treatment to EU citizens living in the UK.
However, due to principles outlined and supported by the Vienna Convention on the Law of Treaties 1969, ‘withdrawal from a treaty releases the party from any future obligations to each other, but does not affect any rights or obligations acquired under it before withdrawal.’
As such, it is currently unclear how Brexit will affect UK citizens abroad. As the terms of Brexit unfold, please do not hesitate to contact my office for an update.
5. I am a UK citizen who wants to retain my EU membership entitlements, and would be very interested in becoming an ‘associate citizen’ of the EU. Is this a likely possibility?
There has been much media coverage of the idea of ‘associate citizenship’ of the EU.
However, it is highly unlikely that this proposal would ever be implemented. The amendment, originally proposed by Charles Goerens, was rejected at committee stage within the European Parliament, and never made it to plenary, i.e. it was not put in front of the whole European Parliament for decision. Guy Verhofstadt, the Belgian MEP and the European Parliament’s Brexit negotiator, raised the proposal again during Brexit discussions, but it has not been explicitly included in any resolutions.
Moreover, the introduction of citizenship rights for a non-EU country would require a whole host of European treaties to be changed, as would introducing the concept of non-national (‘European’) citizenship. The former head of the EU council’s legal service, Jean-Claude Piris has previously told the Guardian newspaper that it was ‘legally impossible to allow nationals of a non-EU country to have associate citizenship of the union.’ Furthermore, the idea would have to win the unanimous backing of the remaining 27 EU Member states. While the proposal may therefore have many merits, it is extremely unlikely to become a reality.
6. Following the EU referendum, I am very concerned about the increase in hate crime. What can I do to stop it?
Immediately after the referendum, the Home Office crime statistics reported a ‘sharp increase’ in the number of racially or religious aggravated offences recorded by the police. July 2016, as compared to July 2015, saw a 41% increase in hate crimes.
The TUC report, Challenging Racism After the EU Referendum, has specific actions that the Government, employers and Trade Unions can take to combat hate crimes. If you have witnessed a hate crime, or you or someone you know have been a victim of hate crime, you can report it via the True Vision website. The site also has information on what hate crimes are, and the support available to hate crime victims.
For more resources on how to combat hate crime, please visit my website: http://www.anneliesedoddsmep.uk/stopping_hate_crimes.
Background: a Brexit timeline
- On the 23th of June 2016, the United Kingdom voted to leave the European Union by 51.9% to 48.1%.
- On the 10th of October 2016, the Great Repeal Bill was announced to Parliament.
- This bill includes three primary elements; 1. Pledging to repeal the European Communities Act 1972; 2. Preserving EU law; 3. The proposed use for delegated powers.
- On the 24th of January 2017, the Supreme Court judged that Article 50 could only be triggered following the approval of the Houses of Parliament.
- On the 26th of January 2017, the European Union (Notification of Withdrawal) Act 2017 was introduced to the House of Commons.
- When introduced to the House, this contained no information of the terms of Brexit, and gave no assurances as to the status of EU nationals.
- On the 1st of March 2017, the House of Lords voted to support a Labour amendment that would guarantee the rights of EU nationals within this country.
- On the 14th of March 2017, Conservative MPs in the House of Commons voted to overturn the House of Lords amendment that guaranteed the rights of EU national rights.
- On the 16th of March 2017, the European Union (Notification of Withdrawal) Act 2017 received royal assent.
- Theresa May triggered Article 50 on the 29th of March 2017.
EU Nationals- statistics
- According to Migration Watch UK, Just over 3.6 million EU nationals are resident in the UK.
- Of these 3.6 million, the ONS Labour Market statistics estimate that 2.1 million are employed in the UK.
- Work was the most common main reason for immigration, while formal study was the second most common main reason.