One of the most contentious issues in the debate around the post-Brexit immigration system has been the cut-off date for the free movement of EU citizens into the UK. Many had hoped that EU nationals residing in the UK would enjoy the same free movement rights they currently possess until we formally leave the EU in 2019. However, recent headlines suggest that the government may set the deadline for when the EU citizens will no longer have an automatic right to stay in the UK permanently much earlier - possibly on the date of triggering of Article 50, which is expected in mid-March. By setting the cut-off date in the very near term without providing much notice, the government may be attempting to limit a potential surge in last-minute migrants.
It is not clear what the mechanism for entering and working in the UK will be for EU citizens under this plan after the cut-off date. A new visa regime would be a likely outcome according to press reports. It is also probable that such a decision by the UK government would be contested under the EU law, which means that the outcome may still change.
However, in the meantime, it is advisable that EU migrants who came to the UK before March 2017 seek to establish their right to remain before Article 50 is triggered. Migrants who have lived in the UK for a continuous period of 5 years can apply for a Permanent Residence Card to prove their right to live in the UK. EU migrants who have been living in the UK for a period less than 5 years they can prove they have been exercising their Treaty rights by applying for a Registration Certificate.
There remains a disappointing lack of clarity for the thousands of EU nationals who currently reside in the UK. The rumour mill and "leaks" from those who have their own agendas will continue to fuel speculation about the final position until the matter is ultimately resolved by legislation.
However, EU nationals who satisfy the above criteria would be well advised to establish their status in the UK in the event that some of the leaks and speculation appearing in the press and elsewhere turns out to be correct.
Any EU nationals who are concerned about their position in a post-Brexit UK can contact a member of our immigration team for advice about how best to protect their position.