The British government on Tuesday (7 November) promised a streamlined process to help most EU citizens currently living in Britain remain after Brexit in 2019.
The UK published a paper setting out the details on how it wants to register the around three million EU citizens and their families after Brexit.
The rights of EU citizens in the UK and UK citizens in the EU is one of the key issues in Brexit talks.
The paper says that EU citizens and their families who can prove to UK authorities that they lawfully resided before the yet-to-be specified Brexit cut-off date, must be granted “settled status” by the British authorities for after Brexit.
“Caseworkers considering applications will be able to use their discretion where appropriate, meaning those applying to stay in the UK after we leave the EU will not have their applications refused for minor technicalities. We expect the majority of cases to be granted,” the UK home office and the department for exiting the EU said in a statement.
Describing plans for the mass registration process, the UK said it would give a two-year ‘grace period’ after Brexit to apply for the settled status. EU citizens are encouraged to start voluntarily registering after the first phase of Brexit talks is over.
Conditions for refusals will have to be specified in the withdrawal agreement, the paper says.
Those who have lived in the UK for less than five years, the period required for permanent residency, will get a temporary status until they reach the five-year mark.
The UK would not require citizens who are self-employed, economically not active, or studying to hold a comprehensive sickness insurance, a difficult and costly administrative procedure to go through.
No biometric data will be required, such as fingerprints, EU citizens will only need to submit a photograph.
EU citizens will have the right to appeal at UK courts if their application is rejected, but the policy paper makes no mention of the European Court of Justice, which the EU insists should be the final guarantor of citizens’ rights.
The UK government says that the new system for applying for a “settled status” will be “streamlined, low-cost and user-friendly”.
“We will support everyone wishing to stay to gain settled status through a new straightforward, streamlined system,” the UK’s Brexit secretary David Davis said Tuesday in a statement.
The policy paper adds that there would be security checks on EU citizens, and those with criminal records or who pose a “threat to public order or security” might be booted out.
The EU has advocated for a cheap and easy-to-use system for EU citizens to apply for residency after Brexit.
A group representing EU citizens in the UK, the3million, said they still object to the settled status, and to criminality checks. The group expressed concern on Twitter that the appeal process is unclear, while the cut-off date for EU citizens has still not been confirmed.