May offers EU expats right to permanent residence

Published:  1 Mar at 6 PM
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In a major climbdown, PM Theresa May has announced EU expats who arrive in the UK during the Brexit transition period will be able to apply for permanent residency.

The surprise announcement was slipped into a Home Office Brexit policy paper, and also states EU migrants who arrive post-March 2019 will now be granted a five-year temporary residence visa rather than the proposed two year version. The announcement gives EU citizen migrants arriving in Britain once Brexit is finalised but before the end of the proposed transition period the full five years’ continuous residence necessary for a permanent stay application.

In addition, EU citizens may bring in their family members in the knowledge that they can work, study or be self-sufficient following their formal registration. However, once the transition period comes to an end, EU nationals already resident in the UK will be disallowed from bringing in their families unless they can pass the £18,600 minimum income threshold test at present applied to returning British citizens but not to EU citizens in the UK. Registration for EU expats wishing to stay long-term in Britain must take place within the three month period after arrival, but Irish citizens will not need to register.

Whilst the offer seems genuine and will be welcomed by EU expats in the UK, there’s a sting in its tail in that the government is continuing to insist that citizens’ rights can only be enforced via UK courts, thus excluding the European Court of Justice. According to the policy document, the concessions are meant to ensure business certainty as well as security for those wishing to come to Britain during the transition period with the aim of making a life in the UK.

Media reports are suggesting the move is a nod to the EU negotiating team as regards Europe’s collective position on Brit expats living in member states. UK expats’ rights took a turn for the worse earlier this week when the latest draft EU withdrawal treaty made it clear that Britons face losing all their EU-generated rights to freedom of movement and employment outside their present countries of residence.

British in Europe chair Jane Golding stated the EU’s position will increase the fears of many thousands of Britons who depend on free movement in their businesses as well as in their private lives. A statement from the 3 Million campaign group said the PM’s move would create confusion amongst employers and landlords as well as a high risk of errors by officials at the Home Office and possible discrimination against EU expats.
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