A Guide To Comprehensive Sickness Insurance For EU Citizens


The Law Of…understanding comprehensive sickness insurance

Is the Home Office's announcement that having comprehensive sickness insurance (CSI) may be more of a 'technicality' for EU citizens living and working in the UK misleading?

Emma Brooksbank, Partner and Head of Immigration (Leeds), explains what CSI is and why it's still essential for EU citizens who want to stay in the UK on a permanent basis after Brexit.

Guide to comprehensive sickness insurance

What Is Comprehensive Sickness Insurance (CSI)?

Under the Immigration (European Economic Area) Regulations 2016 (also known as the EEA Regulations), CSI is a type of insurance that certain categories of EU citizens need to take out whilst they are living in the UK, to ensure they are meeting the requirements of the Regulations.

They may hold a European Health Insurance Card (EHIC) from their home country or a private medical insurance policy.

What Is The Current Issue Relating To Comprehensive Sickness Insurance?

EU citizens and their family members have the right to live in the UK, under the EU's principle of free movement. This will apply until the law changes after Brexit.

To be able to live in the UK for more than 3 months, the Home Office states that EU nationals must meet the requirements of the EEA Regulations.

To do this, they must be one of the following:

  1. A worker
  2. A self-employed person
  3. A jobseeker
  4. A self-sufficient person with comprehensive sickness insurance
  5. A student with comprehensive sickness insurance

If you're a student or self-sufficient person and you don't have CSI, you're not meeting the requirements of the Regulations. This means that any time you spend in the UK without CSI won't count towards permanent residency if you decide that you want to stay in the UK after Brexit. 

This, however, doesn't mean that you're at risk of being removed from the UK or that you'll face criminal or civil sanctions for not holding comprehensive sickness insurance.

How Long Do I Have To Live In The UK To Qualify For Permanent Residence?

To live in the UK on a permanent basis, you need to have 5 years' residence in the UK.

How Can This Problem Be Solved?

If you find yourself in this situation, you need to urgently get some legal advice from one of our Immigration experts.

Although you could take out CSI so that you are covered now, this unfortunately won't make a difference when you're looking to apply for permanent residence as your insurance cannot be backdated.

If you're a student or self-sufficient, and you're not a worker or self-employed person, you need to have held the insurance for at least 5 years.

There are some steps that the Government could take to resolve the issue:

  • It could confirm that access to the NHS will retrospectively be treated as CSI
  • A concession could be announced for all European nationals and their family members living in the UK as students or self-sufficient people who didn't hold CSI historically, and the Government could declare that this is not required

Emma comments on the current situation:

"The reality is that the Home Office is not going to try to remove people from the UK solely on the basis that they don't have CSI."

"But, we are receiving calls from European nationals every day who have lived in the UK for many years, and may have raised their family, bought property, contributed to the tax and national insurance system, gained qualifications and employment, but yet, will not have the opportunity to secure their status in the UK because they don't have CSI."

"This particularly affects students, carers of elderly parents or other family members, people who have not worked whilst raising a family – in particular the spouses of British nationals – or retired people."

"Even though the Government has said that it will support EEA nationals currently in the UK, and hopes that other EU countries will support British nationals living in Europe, the treatment of this issue reveals a significant disconnect between the narrative and reality."

"This could jeopardise the future of Europeans in the UK and could in turn make things more difficult for British people living in Europe."

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