EU migrants could spark UK visa rush: report

A new report suggests that the UK government could be forced to process 140 years’ worth of visa applications in just one year as a result of June’s vote to leave the EU.

With more than 3 million EU migrants currently living in the UK, the government could face an immense administrative exercise in securing their residence rights, according to a new report carried out by the Migration Observatory at the University of Oxford.

The analysis – ‘Here today, gone tomorrow? The status of EU citizens already living in the UK’ – looks at the existing process that EU citizens can use to apply for permanent residence. The results give an indication of some of the issues the government may face in any new registration scheme post-Brexit.

The report finds that while the government has signalled that it ‘expects’ to protect the long-term status of EU migrants already living in the UK, should it decide to end free movement, the process of doing this may be complex.

If all EEA citizens already living in the UK in early 2016 applied for permanent residence at once, this would represent the equivalent of around 140 years’ worth of work at recent rates of processing for this type of application.

“Depending on how long Brexit negotiations take, the government may need to register EU citizens already living here quite quickly,” said Madeleine Sumption, Director of the Migration Observatory at the University of Oxford.  “Given the sheer number of EU citizens who would need to register and the potential complexity of the process, this will be a formidable task.”

If existing rules for registering EU citizens as permanent residents are used as the model for the post-Brexit registration process, a substantial minority of EU citizens could find themselves ineligible despite having lived in the country for several years.

Immigration lawyers report that there is particular confusion around the current permanent residence rules for students and self-sufficient people such as retirees, who may not know that they are expected to have comprehensive sickness insurance while in the UK.

Sumption added: “This is an area of law that has not received much attention so far, but it is about to become a lot more important. Around a third of applications are either refused or deemed invalid because they do not include all the right paperwork. With a much larger number of people now in the pipeline, the complexity of the process is likely to come under scrutiny.”

As Brexit negotiations are still in early stages, the government has not yet laid out what any registration process for EU citizens would look like and who would qualify. It is possible that this process will be similar to the current permanent residence application, but it is also possible that a different and potentially simpler procedure will be introduced.

Article published 3rd August 2016