- Oxford University warns of ‘formidable’ processing challenge
- Home Office currently processes 25,500 applications per year
The U.K. risks facing a deluge of residency applications as European Union citizens dash to formalize their right to stay in the wake of the Brexit vote.
The warning comes from the University of Oxford’s Migration Observatory, which said in a report that registering more than 3 million European nationals already living in the U.K. would present a “formidable” administrative challenge.
If they all lodged applications in the same year, the task facing the government would amount to the equivalent of about 140 years of work at current rates of processing, it said. The Home Office processes an average of 25,500 applications a year.
“Depending on how long Brexit negotiations take, the government may need to register EU citizens already living here quite quickly,” said Madeleine Sumption, director of the Migration Observatory. “Given the sheer number of EU citizens who would need to register and the potential complexity of the process, this will be a formidable task.”
The decision to leave the EU has thrown the status of Europeans living in the U.K. into doubt, with Prime Minister Theresa May saying she intends to protect their rights providing Britons living in other EU countries are similarly respected.
Britain is expected to seek controls on freedom of movement from the EU as it negotiates its exit from the 28-nation bloc. Under current rules, those who have lived continuously in the U.K. for five years enjoy an automatic right to stay, but few have sought formal residency.
The Migration Observatory said there were more than 3.5 million citizens of the European Economic Area plus Switzerland living in the U.K. at the start of this year.
Some may find it hard to qualify for residency, even if they have lived in Britain for years, according to the report. Self-employed people, for example, may struggle to collect the necessary paperwork. Low earners may not satisfy a threshold of “genuine and effective work.”
“This is an area of law that has not received much attention so far, but it is about to become a lot more important,” Sumption said. “Around a third of applications are either refused or deemed invalid because they do not include all the right paperwork.”