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In the wake of the UK’s vote to leave the EU in June last year, the only consistent feature appears to have been that of uncertainty, and amongst EU nationals living in the UK, this has been a particularly unsettling time.
There have been mixed messages from politicians with health secretary Jeremy Hunt in October saying ‘we’ve been clear we want [EU doctors] to be able to stay post-Brexit’, while in the same month one of his cabinet colleagues described EU nationals as one of the ‘main cards’ in Brexit negotiations, leaving some feeling like they were little more than negotiating chips.
More than six months on from the referendum result however, politicians are seemingly no clearer to agreeing on, let alone articulating, what the post-Brexit landscape will look like for the around three million EU citizens living in the UK.
In her speech defining the Government’s 12 key objectives in leaving the EU, Theresa May spoke of ‘wanting to guarantee’ rights of EU citizens in the UK, before conceding she was still not in a position to do so.
The BMA has itself stressed the importance of retaining EU colleagues who account for 55,000 staff within the NHS in England alone, while one think tank called on ministers to offer citizenship or leave to remain to existing European health service staff.
With Article 50, the mechanism for triggering a two-year formal negotiation process for exiting the EU, expected to be triggered by the end of March, we provide guidance and information to support those concerned about their immigration status.
There are a broad range of advantages to be obtained through acquiring permanent residence or British citizenship.
Firstly, applying for permanent residence notifies the Home Office as to your presence and your intention to remain in the UK, and is likely to put you in the strongest position to remain whatever happens in the future.
Gaining permanent residence means that you no longer have to be a ‘qualifying person’ to remain in the UK, so you will no longer be required to prove that you have a job, sufficient resources, health insurance, and so on, once you have permanent residence
Both statuses confer upon EU nationals the same rights that indefinite leave to remain affords to non-EU citizens living in the UK, notably being access to public funds, healthcare and education, rights equivalent to those enjoyed by British nationals.
In the longer term, children who are born in the UK following their parents acquiring permanent residence will automatically be deemed as British. Moreover, those acquiring British citizenship should be able to pass this on to children born both inside and outside the country.
Applicants should however seek independent tax advice to determine whether their new status would impact upon their tax position in the UK.
Similarly, UK immigration and nationality law is complex and subject to constant change. Independent legal advice in this regard is thus always recommended.
EEA (European Economic Area) citizens in the UK are not currently subject to immigration control. They automatically acquire a right of residence if they are considered a ‘qualified person’ in the UK.
EEA nationals who have lived in the UK for five years or more automatically qualify for permanent residence status, provided they have met the criteria for ‘qualified person’ status throughout that period.
A qualified person is deemed as someone employed or self-employed, financially self-sufficient, a student or a job seeker. It also continues to apply if illness or accident temporarily prevents employment.
Applications for permanent residence must be supported by appropriate evidence to prove their ongoing continuing residence as a qualified person in the previous five years.
If for any time during the five years you have been a student or ‘self-sufficient’, you will need to prove you had comprehensive sickness insurance (CSI) during that time in order for that time to count. You don’t need to have had CSI while you were a worker or self-employed.
Evidence can take a number of forms, so for someone who is applying on the basis of employment, this could include P60s showing the payment of tax over the last five years, letters from an employer previous employers or pay slips.
Applicants are able to amalgamate time spent under differing qualified person categories, so for example they could have initially entered as a student and then obtained employment. The documentary evidence would need to demonstrate this.
Those who meet the qualified person status, but who have been living in the UK for under five years, can apply for a registration certificate.
Once obtained, the certificate affirms the holder’s qualified person status for a period of five years and certificates can also be obtained for family members residing in the UK.
Following a change in the law in November 2015, EEA nationals wishing to apply for British citizenship must first secure permanent residence status.
This status needs to have been held for at least one year prior to applying for citizenship, unless the applicant is married to a British citizen, in which case application for citizenship can be made immediately.
The Home Office have also agreed to ‘back-date’ an endorsement for permanent residence, allowing those who have spent six years or more in the UK to have their endorsement backdated to the point they acquired permanent status after five years rather than as at the date of the decision.
Applicants must also be of good character and meet quite prescriptive residence requirements, together with knowledge of life and language in the UK.
Citizenship applicants are required to submit biometric information including fingerprints and photographs, which can be completed at post offices across the UK.
Applications must also be supported by two referees who have known the applicant for at least three years. For full details on the process and documentary requirements, a detailed review of the Home Office guidance is advised.
As and when specific proposals or policy changes that impact you are put forward the BMA will be on hand to lobby to protect doctors’ right as well as advising and supporting those that are impacted.
Zulaykha Bhaijee is an immigration expert working with BMA Law
BMA members are entitled to free basic immigration advice. Call the BMA’s Immigration Advisory Service on 0300 123 1233
Both the UK and EU have confirmed that everyone (regardless of permanent or not) will have to re-apply for their status . So applying for permanent residency now just to have to re-apply after the transition is pointless .
Please what is legislation about comprehensive sickness insurance, I need the exact legislation and when it was enacted and came into force
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