Skip to main content
Hot Topics

Migration Observatory report says registering over 3 million EU citizens already living in UK is a formidable task for the Government


With more than 3 million EU migrants currently living in the UK, the Government faces an immense administrative exercise in securing their residence rights, according to a new report published today by the Migration Observatory at the University of Oxford.

The analysis – Here Today, Gone Tomorrow? The Status of EU Citizens Already Living in the UK – looks at the existing process that EU citizens can use to apply for permanent residence, which gives an indication of some of the issues the Government may face in any new registration scheme post-Brexit.

The report finds that while the Government has signalled that it ‘expects’ to protect the long-term status of EU migrants already living here if the UK decides to end free movement, the process of doing this may be complex.

If all EEA citizens already living in the UK in early 2016 applied for permanent residence at once, this would represent the equivalent of around 140 years’ worth of work at recent rates of processing for this type of application.

If existing rules for registering EU citizens as permanent residents are used as the model for a post-Brexit registration process, a substantial minority of EU citizens could find themselves ineligible despite having lived in the country for several years.

Immigration lawyers report that there is particular confusion around the current permanent residence rules for students and self-sufficient people such as retirees, who may not know that they are expected to have comprehensive sickness insurance while in the UK.

As Brexit negotiations are still at an early stage, the Government has not yet laid out what any registration process for EU citizens would look like and who would qualify. It is possible that this process will be similar to the current permanent residence application, but it is also possible that a different and potentially simpler procedure will be introduced.

Read the full report