EU Referendum Announced
David Cameron has called an EU referendum on the 23rd June 2016 to decide if the UK should stay in the EU. The consequences will be huge for both EU nationals and also non-EU nationals. If the UK votes to stay in the EU then not much will change in the way of immigration, other than some minor adjustments in benefits that can be claimed. Most reports indicate migrants from the EU claim very little in benefits even when entitled so this is not going to any real effect on EU nationals. If the UK decided to leave the EU then the situation becomes complex and concerning for many EEA nationals and their family members which can include non-eea nationals. Let take a look at the scenarios and what you can do to ensure you have permanent residence in the UK.
How will the UK leaving the EU affect current EU migrants in the UK?
At this stage it is hard to know what the current government would do in the case of a Brexit. The right thing to do would be to permit any EU citizens in work or who have resided in the UK for at least 12 months to continue under current rules until they obtain permanent residence after 5 years. This would put EU nationals in the UK under more pressure to think about work and qualifying for permanent residence after their 5 year period. It would be vital all immigration documents and key areas are satisfied if making an application as a failed application could result in loss of rights to live and work in the UK.
How will the UK leaving the EU affect current EU citizens and their family wanting to come to the UK?
It is likely that EU nationals would be subject to regular UK immigration as opposed to the current EU free movement rules. That would mean that EU nationals could only migrant to the UK if they qualified for one of the skilled visas such as Tier 2 General. The problem is that there is a cap on theTier 2 general visa system of around 20,000 per year and this is likely to be changed to a lower value in the future. Other options for EU nationals is to apply to come on a Tier 1 Entrepreneur visa which would require them to invest £200,000 in a business in the UK which is a long shot for most Europeans.
Overall the current visa system would block the majority of EEA citizens from coming to work in the UK. A final option for them would be if they were married or getting married to a UK permanent resident or UK citizen then they could apply for a spouse visa and work in the UK this way. again this option is a reach and will not apply to the many 100,000s that come here each year from the EU. There is also another problem in that previously under EU rules, parents could bring dependents up to the age of 21 years old. If they had to apply under UK immigration rules they would only be allowed to bring any children under the age of 18 and leave behind any who are over this age as they are classed as independent, causing more problems for EU families.
How will the UK leaving the EU affect EU citizens family members who are non-eea nationals?
This could be the same for EEA nationals and would be cruel for the government to break families apart this way. Given that the current immigration minister has had no problem breaking apart families with the spouse visa rules requiring a certain salary, it wouldn’t be a surprise if it happened. Non-eea national family members in a worse case scenario could be forced to leave the UK.
How will the UK leaving the EU affect non-eea nationals otherwise known as those from outside the EU?
It is difficult to determine the net effect on non-eea nationals. On the other hand there will be less immigration to the UK from the EU and they may then be on a level playing field. On the other hand, they may have to compete with 100,000s more applicants for the limited amount of skilled visas. Logic would dictate that the government would increase the Tier 2 general quota for certificate of sponsorship to a much higher number to account for all the skilled migration that has come from the EU. The Home Office may recreate the old Tier 1 General high-skilled visa with slightingly different rules and this would create a great platform for non-eea nationals to come to the UK. This could be a new points-based system similar to Australia and Canada were those with good education and experience have a good chance of migrating to the UK.
Regardless of what happens it is important as an EEA national or non-eea national to keep up to date with any potential changes and work now to mitigate these. If you qualify for permanent residence, then get it now. If you are unsure if you are exercising treaty rights for your PR or need advice on how a Brexit may affect you or your family then contact us for advice on the best way forward.
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