EU expats in UK without private health insurance denied residence permits

Published:  20 Feb at 6 PM
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As if getting residency in the UK post-referendum wasn’t tricky and time-consuming enough, EU expats desperate to stay in the UK post-Brexit are now being told they’ve been refused because they haven’t bought private health insurance.

A little-known piece of legislation requiring EU citizens to purchase private health insurance is now being used to deny legitimate claims for permanent residency. The mostly ignored law applies to EU citizens living in the UK who are either looking for work or not in work, with residency only granted if health insurance has been purchased for five years before making an application.

It is thought that the law was not being applied previously as EU citizens living in other member states are normally entitled to free healthcare in their countries of residence. According to the Home Office, EU citizens are not being removed for not having health insurance but are being denied guarantees of permanent residency. A BBC report suggests those considered to be the most vulnerable are full-time parents and students studying at British universities.

One long-term UK resident arrived in the UK from Germany at the age of 13, and has lived there ever since. He has been refused residency because, during his time as a UK student, he did not have private health insurance. He told reporters he had no idea of the requirement, and is shocked that he’s now in this situation.

Married language teacher Nina Hoffman, also from Germany, arrived with her family in 2006 and took time out from work to look after her three children without being aware of the need to purchase health insurance. Her solicitor has advised her not to apply for residency as she will be refused. Other EU citizens with failed applications have been told by the Home Office to make preparations to leave the UK.

For now, the Home Office has reworded its refusal letters and is not telling failed applicants to leave, but many are confused and afraid they will be deported once Britain leaves the EU. Attempts are now being made by cross-party members of the House of Lords to amend the Brexit bill in order to introduce a fast-track procedure giving EU immigrants the right to remain in the UK.

Oxford University’s Migration Observatory data states 25 per cent of EU applicants were refused permanent residency in 2015, with 15,000 being granted residency documentation since the referendum.
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