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EU Citizens and Comprehensive Sickness Insurance - What's the Big Secret?

The number of EU nationals applying for an EU Permanent Residence Card (PR Cards) has surged 36% since the referendum, from 10,269 in the three months prior to the EU referendum to 16,009 in the three months that followed. And according to a recent report by the Liberal Democrats, in the last two-quarters of 2016, more than 12,800 EU citizens had their permanent residency requests refused with a further 5,500 declared invalid; a rejection rate of around 28%.

One of the many reasons for PR Cards being rejected is that those who are exercising their Treaty rights as students or self-sufficient persons are often unaware that they need comprehensive sickness insurance (CSI). In fact, many EU nationals are still unaware of it, even though, according to prominent immigration law blogger, Colin Yeo, the Home Office has quietly extended its powers to remove EU citizens who have been unlawfully living in the country because they do not have CSI.

The claim resulted in many EU nationals panicking that they would be deported for not having CSI even though it has never been publicised that they need it, as EU nationals have always been entitled to care under the NHS.

The Home Office has said Mr. Yeo, who is a highly respected and learned immigration law barrister, incorrectly interpreted the minor guidance change.

A Home Office spokesperson told The Independent, "It is completely wrong to say that we have new powers to deport EU citizens without comprehensive sickness insurance. EU citizens will not be removed from the UK or refused entry solely because they do not have this insurance."

What is CSI and who needs it?

The requirement for CSI (private medical insurance) requirement is nothing new, in fact, it originated in an EU Directive which is now 12 years old. It has however become more salient since the Brexit vote and the consequent skyrocketing of PR applications, which the Government, in turn, have decided to reject in droves based on this single factor - failure to have CSI - despite the fact most of EU nationals living in the UK never knew they needed it.

EU nationals who are students or self-sufficient, such as parents who have left work to look after their children, must have CSI to reside in the UK legally.

What happens if I do not have CSI?

The biggest problem EU nationals living in the UK who do not have CSI are facing is they are being turned down when they apply for a PR Card. And without a PR Card, EU nationals cannot get British Citizenship.

It can be even more frustrating for some PR Card applicants. Let's say you have been in the UK for six years. For the first two years, you were studying at university, and for the past four years, you have been working. If you did not have CSI while you were studying, there is a high chance your application for a PR Card will be rejected because, as far as the Home Office is concerned, you were in the UK unlawfully. This means that you may have to wait another five years before you can apply for a PR Card again.

What steps EU nationals do if they do not have CSI?

The first step is to make sure you get CSI as soon as possible if you are exercising your EU Treaty rights as a self-sufficient person or a student.

If you have been in the UK for several years and for some of that time have not had CSI when you may have required it (such as a period when you stayed home looking after your children when they were small), seek the advice of an experienced immigration lawyer who may be able to write a covering letter to the Home Office explaining your situation. They can also advise you as to whether you have been in the UK long enough for the lack of CSI not to affect your application.

In conclusion

It seems life is being made increasingly difficult for EU nationals residing in the UK. Naturally, they are sensitive to any change in policy that could affect their right to remain in a country that for many is the only home they have ever known.

For peace of mind, it is imperative that those applying for a PR Card seek legal advice from an experienced immigration solicitor, who will give them the best chance of having their application approved and their future secured.

The team at Reiss Edwards consists of some of London's leading team of immigration lawyers. If you require expert legal advice on obtaining a Permanent Resident Card, British Citizenship, or any other matter relating to Brexit, please call us on 020 3744 2797. 

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Kind regards
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