Since the referendum, there has been confusion about the rights of EU Nationals in the UK as yet there is no clear message as to what will happen after Article 50 is triggered and how the Brexit process will work. However as the law presently stands, we can say with certainty there has been no changes to the rights and status of EU Nationals in the UK and vice versa.
EU Nationals become an initial qualified person by exercising their treaty rights in the UK through employment, self -employment, as a jobseeker for six months, studying in the UK or being economically self-sufficient. The last 2 categories require Comprehensive Sickness Insurance (CSI) that must cover the EEA National and their family members when in the UK.
A student with a European Health Insurance Card (EHIC) can rely on their EHIC card but they must declare that they do not intend to make the UK their home, otherwise CSI will be needed.
For those in employment, it is essential that they are in ‘genuine and effective’ employment. The Home Office measures this based on an applicant’s salary. The current minimum earnings threshold is £155 per week but this is reviewed every year in April. If an applicant is earning less than the minimum threshold, the Home Office may find that an EEA National is not exercising their treaty rights as a worker.
A retired person may be able to rely on their previous employment to claim a right to reside in the United Kingdom. This is normally based on how long they were working in the UK prior to receiving state pension. Alternatively, they can claim to be self-sufficient as long as CSI is in place.
Although EU Nationals have access to the NHS, the UK Government does not recognise this as CSI, as it is not insurance based. EU nationals must have private health insurance which is ‘comprehensive’. What constitutes comprehensive is debatable and even the Home Office have not clarified the position but it is advised that applicants have the highest level of care available.
Family members who are EU Nationals themselves can rely on the main applicant as long as he/she is a qualified person. Non-EEA nationals can also rely on their EEA National but an element of dependency may need to be demonstrated, depending on the nature of the relationship between the parties.
After five years of continuous residence in the UK as a qualified person an EU National becomes eligible for permanent residence and can apply for a document confirming the same. Family members can also apply at the same time provided they have been in the United Kingdom for a five year period as well. It is important to note that until a person obtains a British passport, they must not leave the United Kingdom for a continuous two year period. If this happens, they may lose their permanent residence, depending on each individual’s circumstances.