The British government is emboldened by the Brexit vote to control the number of people who come to Britain, from the EU and outside the EU. It does not only want to reduce the number of new arrivals but also make foreign residents leave too often.
Many EU citizens living in the UK are in limbo as the government is not willing to give any guarantees but rather believes that they would be a useful bargaining chip once the negotiation to leave the EU will start to discuss the future of British citizens living in other EU countries. Brexiteers have not formulated a policy on EU citizens in Britain, neither during the leave campaign, nor since June 23, nor has the government during the last 8 months since the Brexit vote and in the time before triggering Article 50.
On the contrary, the government has hardened its stance and tolerance towards resident EU citizens, and non-EU citizens, even though the UK is still a full member of the EU, Article 50 has not even been triggered, and the negotiations about leaving the EU have not started.
One example is the complex and complicated 85-page application form to apply for “permanent residency”. The Home Office is overwhelmed by its own bureaucracy and this application often results in a decision letter sent to the applicant to “make arrangements to leave” even though the applying EU citizen has all rights to remain.
Another example is the “comprehensive sickness insurance” required for foreigners in particular self-sufficient persons or students as requirement for residence or permanent residence. New regulations were introduced on 1 February 2017 and a swathe of policy documents were updated shortly afterwards. An EU citizen who is physically present in the UK but who the Home Office considers does not have a right of residence is in a precarious and unlawful position and can be removed from the UK at any time. If they leave the UK and re-enter they may be committing a criminal offence under section 24 of the Immigration Act 1971. They cannot qualify for British citizenship for at least five years because they need to acquire permanent residence first, at least in the opinion of the Home Office.
It is most upsetting and incomprehensible that these regulations are also and in particular applied to EU and non-EU spouses of British citizens. Also they are not immune to get told by the Home Office to make arrangements to leave.
Dutch woman Monique Hawkins married to a British husband and with two British children was told to leave UK after 24 years.
German Lars Graefe, who has lived in the UK since 1998, and is married to a British woman, received a similar “make-preparations-to-leave” letter from the Home Office.
Dutch woman, Jet Cooper, resident in the UK for 30 years, who has raised three children here and whose husband is ill, was told she may not qualify for permanent residency without private health insurance, and may have to leave after Brexit.
Non-EU citizen Irene Clennell, who has a British husband, children and a grandchild in the UK, was given indefinite leave to remain in the UK in 1990. She then lost indefinite leave to remain after spending some time in Singapore caring for her parents. Her last visa expired, she was sent to a detention centre in Scotland in mid-January and deported to Singapore on Sunday, February 26, 2017.
A Scottish woman, Emma Pollet, and her French scientist husband have decided to quit the UK because of Brexit after his application for permanent residency was rejected by the Home Office, despite him working in the country for more than 20 years.
EU citizens resident in the UK have good reasons to feel insecure and worried based on the British government’s immigration policies. These regulations now even turn against Brits themselves and may split their families.