Recent revelations about the plight of the so-called Windrush generation have forced government to react and actively acknowledge mistakes. The Prime Minister told Caribbean leaders she is “genuinely sorry” for distress caused, Home Secretary Amber Rudd apologised to the House of Commons for the “appalling” actions of her department admitting that a concern with policy had made it lose “sight of individuals”. The revelations resonate more than ever with Brexit on the horizon. Is the Home Office equipped to handle the process of ensuring EEA (European Economic Area) nationals with a right to be in UK are not ejected unfairly?
Immigration Minister Caroline Nokes has acknowledged that “We have made some mistakes, which we cannot continue to make” and perhaps this is the message that we can try to cling to. The reaction by government, including Amber Rudd’s creation of a new team to handle the cases of Commonwealth-born long-term UK residents, could have the knock-on effect of shaking up Home Office policies and procedures. In the run up to Brexit, rather than risk further scandal the department is likely to focus resources on ensuring that the right processes are in place and that the individual is taken into consideration as well as the paperwork.
However, alongside a case for tentative optimism, EEA nationals living in the UK are likely to remain apprehensive about the future. If an EEA national has lived in the UK for more than five years and has continued to exercise their treaty rights, by working for example, they may have acquired the right to reside permanently in the UK. But what if that individual has taken a break from work, possibly to look after children, do they still have a right to permanently reside?
These questions should be answered and resolved whilst the law remains unchanged. Making applications for British citizenship are also recommended without delay. For those EEA nationals who have lived in the UK for a shorter period of time, making an application for a registration certificate is recommended to ensure that confirmation of their current rights is obtained. UK firms with employees from the EEA can support them now by ensuring they have applied for confirmation of their rights in the UK.
Stone King’s immigration team can help with advice or support in relation to any aspect of immigration law.
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