Some of the key immigration points to take from the speech were:
- The government do want to guarantee the rights of EU citizens who are already living in Britain, and the rights of British nationals in other member states, "as early as we can". Rather than unilaterally give such a guarantee, however, the UK Government is seeking agreement with other EU leaders on this point.
- The government will "get control of the number of people coming to Britain from the EU". Theresa May confirmed that the UK "will always want immigration from Europe, and we will always welcome individual migrants as friends." On the basis of this comment, it appears likely that EU (and EEA) nationals seeking to enter the UK, study in the UK or work in the UK will be subject to control following the UK's exit from the EU. The extent of that control, and the steps that an EU national may have to take to come to the UK and live, work and/or study here, is currently not clear.
The detail behind these headlines may not be clear for some time, with the Prime Minster referring to the potential for "a phased process of implementation, in which both Britain and the EU institutions and member states prepare for the new arrangements" after the two year Article 50 process has concluded. Nevertheless, it is understandable that EEA nationals living, studying or working here in the UK (or with plans to do so in the future) will be concerned about what their current and future immigration position might be. There are various steps that we would recommend a concerned individual take, including steps to regularise their immigration status.
We can assist with any applications or queries from EEA nationals. We regularly advise clients from EEA countries on:
- Whether they have already acquired permanent residence in the UK under the EEA Regulations and, if so, how to apply for this to be confirmed
- The evidence that they need to ensure that they meet the definition of a 'qualified person' under the EEA Regulations
- What comprehensive sickness insurance means - and why it is so important
- How to apply for British Citizenship - and how to avoid the common pitfalls.
We can also advise employers on what steps they should take now - and what potentially they may need to do in the future - if they employ staff from EEA countries.
If you are an EEA national or you are an employer employing EEA nationals and want to discuss this further, please contact Judith Hockin on 0117 3145302.