There may be a light at the end of the tunnel for European nationals who have lived in the UK for many years but whose personal circumstances have prevented them acquiring permanent residence.
A little known provision requiring certain categories of European nationals to hold private medical insurance has been tripping up many individuals applying for UK permanent residence documentation in the wake of the Brexit vote.
However, a BBC article reports that a group of peers has tabled an amendment to the Article 50 bill currently before parliament that would “rescue” people caught by the current law.
Normally, EU nationals who have worked in the UK, either for others or themselves, acquire permanent residence after five years and are then able to apply for a document confirming this right.
However, students or people who are “self-sufficient” – i.e. not earning an income but not relying on benefits – will only acquire permanent residence if they have held “comprehensive sickness insurance” throughout the period in question.
This provision is not generally known about and only becomes an issue when the person wants to apply for a Permanent Residence Card. Of course, by that time, it is too late to backdate the insurance and so a growing number of European nationals who thought they were eligible are running into very serious difficulties.
The people we have most commonly seen affected by this are European nationals who are married to British citizens and supported by their UK spouse, or individuals who have taken a career break in order to study.
A refusal to issue a Permanent Residence Card does not mean that people face immediate removal under the UK’s current law. However, there is currently no way to know what position the government will take in respect of such people once the Brexit negotiations are complete.
Equally, there is no guarantee that a Permanent Residence Card will resolve all future problems until the outcome of the negotiations is known. However, the general consensus among immigration solicitors is that people with a Permanent Residence Card will be in a much stronger position in the future and, at a minimum, it allows them to apply for British citizenship should they wish to do so.
For the time being, it is unclear whether the amendment, tabled by a group of Liberal Democrat, Labour and crossbench peers, will be approved. However, it will at least come as a relief to many to know that there is a growing political awareness of their plight and a possible solution ahead.
To see how we can assist you please contact the Immigration team on 020 7631 4141.
This article originally appeared on the Fisher Meredith website in February 2017.