Fresh Fears Of Families Being Separated Amid Brexit Confusion
Immigration experts at Irwin Mitchell Private Wealth are warning EEA nationals of the potential post-Brexit reality of bringing their family members to the UK. Their warnings come in response to the policy paper recently published by the government detailing its proposals for the rights of EU citizens living in the UK.
The European Economic Arena (“EEA”) is comprised of 28 EU countries and Iceland, Liechtenstein and Norway.
Currently, EEA nationals are entitled to visit the UK for up to three months without going through any formal procedures. To reside in the UK an EEA national must simply ‘exercise their treaty rights’, which means the EEA national must be employed, self-employed, a student or self-sufficient. Upon completion of continuous residence in the UK for five years, an EEA national automatically acquires permanent residence status in the UK. As EEA nationals exercising their treaty rights, they may bring their family members to the UK regardless of whether the family members are EEA citizens or not.
Specialists in the Irwin Mitchell Private Wealth Team have suggested that harsher rules might come into place for EEA family members once the UK has left the EU. If an EEA national’s family arrives in the UK before Brexit, then current EU law will apply and the family member(s) will be able to apply for settled status after five years. However, it is suggested that if EEA nationals’ family members arrive once the UK has left the EU, they will be subject to the same rules as family members joining British citizens under domestic law, which are not as generous.
Under domestic law, only certain family members of British nationals may come and join them in the UK: different requirements apply to different types of family members. In order to bring a spouse over to the UK, for example, certain requirements must be satisfied, such as passing a recognised English language test and earning a sufficient amount of money to support themselves.
Ben Xu, an immigration expert in the London and International Private Wealth team at Irwin Mitchell Private Wealth, commented: “Brexit will of course bring changes and with immigration being one of the pillars of the Leave campaign’s argument, it will not be an issue that falls by the wayside once the process is completed.
“The definition of an ‘extended family member’ is wider under EU law, which currently applies to the UK for EEA families, than domestic UK law. Assuming that UK domestic law remains the same, it’s imperative that any EEA members seek full advice before deciding to move their family to the UK, particularly if they could be classed as an extended member of the family.
“If the law is to change in the future, Irwin Mitchell Private Wealth can help to provide clarity on the new legislation. We advise that EEA nationals who are considering bringing their family to the UK stay informed of any legislation changes in order to avoid being caught out by potential changes.”