MP Calls For Rules On Health Insurance For EU Citizens To Be Scrapped


The Law Of... being granted permanent residency

Tory MP Sarah Wollaston has suggested that the government should scrap immigration rules that may prevent certain EU citizens from getting permanent residency in the UK if they don't have private health insurance.

MP Wants To Scrap Health Insurance For EU Citizens

Emma Brooksbank, Partner and Head of Immigration (Leeds), investigates what this could mean for the millions of EU citizens hoping to secure their place in the UK post Brexit.

Making The Immigration Process More Efficient

To prevent the 3million EU citizens in the UK from facing the looming "bureaucratic nightmare" when applying for permanent residency, Sarah suggested that a "simple, efficient and rapid" immigration process is needed.

She also said that deciding the fate of EU citizens living in the UK and that of British nationals living in EU states should be the government's "number one priority" during Brexit talks.According to the Guardian, Sarah is also supporting a petition launched by an EU citizen that calls for this requirement to be removed, after some EU citizens who applied for permanent residency after Brexit found out that they should have had health insurance when they were not working.

The petition that Sarah is backing calls for a reform of the current system in place for EU citizens to gain permanent residency. In particular, the petition asks for the removal of "comprehensive sickness insurance as permanent residency requirement for EU/European Economic Area students, homemakers, carers, retired, and disabled people or applicants self-sufficient through their incomes, including their on-EEA spouses/civil partners."

Under existing EU law EU citizens are permitted to live and work in the UK, but after Brexit nearly all rights that are protected by international law, apart from the right to own property or a business, will need to be reasserted.

Struggling To Cope With Permanent Residency Applications

Although the status of EU citizens living in the UK hasn't changed since the EU referendum, the Home Office has received an influx of over 100,000 applications for permanent residency from those who are desperate to secure their place in the UK.The Home Office, according to Sarah, needs a "very quick, efficient and low cost" system in place to handle these applications. She added that it is "completely untenable" that the current process of getting permanent residency for non-EU citizens would be the process put in place for EU citizens.

"There are real people being caught up in this", she continued. "It is completely unacceptable."

It's even more troubling that approximately 30% of the permanent residency applications currently being made are failing. One of the many cases to have hit the headlines recently involves Monique Hawkins – a Dutch citizen who has been living in the UK for 24 years – being denied permanent residency after she included a copy of her Dutch passport with her application rather than the original passport. Emma comments:

"The requirement to have held comprehensive sickness insurance as a student or self-sufficient person is catching many European nationals and their family members unaware. A self-sufficient person could have been caring for children or parents. Their partner may have been working or they may have had their own resources. They would not have been overly reliant on the benefit system in the UK, and yet they are discovering that after years or, at times, decades of residency in the UK, they are being told by the Home Office that they must leave."

"The issue stems from the anomalous healthcare system we have in the UK, namely that there is a free NHS system that does not require insurance. In most other European countries, health insurance is required. In the UK it would not be usual to hold health insurance and most European nationals are not informed – at the start of their period of residence – that they require health insurance in order to qualify for residence."

"People find that the whole period of their residence without health insurance, unless they were a worker, a job seeker or self-employed, will not count towards permanent residence and they now have to start again. This problem could be solved in one of three ways:

  • Firstly, the UK Government could amend the EEA Regulations to remove the requirement to hold health insurance, although this would put the Regulations in direct conflict with the European Treaties.
  • Secondly, the UK Government could announce a concession for all European nationals and their family members who are currently in the UK to waive the requirement to have held health insurance historically.
  • Thirdly, the UK Government could agree that access to the NHS during a period of residence was sufficient to meet the health insurance requirement."

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