EU nationals in the UK queue for passport stamps to prove residency ahead of Brexit
Home office says new EU migrants have three years’ temporary leave to remain
Border force officials are not technically allowed to endorse EU passports with a stamp but occasionally do so in some cases at their own discretion. Photograph: iStock
EU nationals planning to live and work in the UK are queueing at border control requesting dated entry stamps in their passports in an effort to prove they have come into the country ahead of the October 31st Brexit deadline.
Immigration lawyers said they were advising EU clients to seek physical endorsements in their passports to prove they had entered the country ahead of Brexit day, since those arriving after that point would not be eligible for the same rights to live and work in the UK in the event of a no-deal.
In a U-turn on Wednesday, the UK Home Office scrapped plans to end free movement in the event of a no-deal departure from the bloc instead returning to the previous policy of giving new EU migrants three years’ temporary leave to remain.
Under that policy EU nationals entering the country after the planned Brexit date of October 31st and the end of 2020 can obtain a three-year temporary leave to remain. Only those arriving before the end of October will be allowed to apply for long-term residence in the UK under the settled status scheme.
Anyone awarded temporary leave to remain will have to apply for a visa through the usual channels once their three years are up.
The changes will not impact Irish people as under the Common Travel Area agreement between Ireland and the UK, Irish and British citizens can move freely and reside in either jurisdiction. The agreement predates membership of the EU.
Confirmation of the less generous immigration terms after a no-deal Brexit is likely to create a “pull” factor for other Europeans seeking to settle in the UK, encouraging more people to arrive before the deadline, immigration lawyers said.
But those EU nationals who are changing their plans to arrive early are concerned they will lack the documentary proof needed to distinguish themselves from fellow Europeans who arrive after October 31st. Without this proof, applicants may be unable to secure settled status.
Julia Onslow-Cole, partner at the law firm Fragomen, said that in an effort to create more clarity with its change of course on Wednesday, the Home Office may inadvertently have created an extra incentive to secure entry to the UK in advance of a no-deal. This could cause chaos at UK immigration in the run-up to Brexit day.
“The logistical problems of proving presence in the UK are creating concerns for those rushing to apply for temporary residence before 31st October,” she said. “Many people are asking border control for a date stamp. This is not a long-term solution and would create mayhem at the border if it became a standard practice.”
Border force officials are not technically allowed to endorse EU passports with a stamp but occasionally do so in some cases at their own discretion. Those refused are told to use the automatic e-gates. There is currently no way to obtain proof that someone has passed through the e-gates as this data is not retained.
Nicole Francis, chief executive of the Immigration Law Practitioners’ Association, said existing guidance that a printout of an airline ticket could be used to prove immigration status were inadequate because it did not prove the person had travelled.
“Lawyers who are concerned about finding the most secure form of evidence are advising their clients to get a date stamp in their passports. My concern is that having heard from some EU nationals who have attempted this at a number of entry points, border staff either don’t want to endorse passports or are refusing to do so,” she said.
Maike Bohn, co-founder of the 3million campaign group, said attempts to obtain a passport endorsement highlighted the difficulties facing EU citizens.
“It clearly shows people’s need to have tangible proof of their rights,” she said.
A home office spokesman said: “For those EU citizens who arrive just before exit, we will accept all the usual evidence of residence, including tenancy agreements, hotel bills, and proof of employment or study. Alternatively, a used travel ticket confirming they are in the UK will count as evidence of residence for the month of entry only.” – Copyright The Financial Times Limited 2019