Currently, EU citizens have, within reason, the same rights as British citizens. But going forward there are so far at least, no guarantees on the Future rights of these citizens after the UK leaves the European Union in 2019 (Brexit).
There are still some exceptions, but as a general rule EU citizens are free to live and work in the UK for as long as they wish without the need for any visa. This benefits both the migrant and the country itself as it allows well-qualified people to move between countries to enjoy better employment and quality of life. But in the UK the migration issue has always been high on the agenda. Since 2004 there has been a large influx of workers from Eastern Europe. Critics will contend that this has been bad for the country as a whole as they place a strain on governmental services. In contrast, many research papers have shown that these migrants are a net gain to the UK, adding more money in terms of tax receipts than they use. This fact seems to matter little and in 2016 the UK decided to end its 40 plus year membership of the European Union by way of referendum.
The British government has held the rights of EU citizens to live and work in the UK to ransom in EU negotiations thus far. As the EU looks to settle Britain's so-called "divorce bill" before negotiations on trade will begin. This leaves EU citizens in limbo with regards to their futures. Many even inside the UK have criticised the government's position on this. With harsh critics of the government insisting that they are playing with people's lives and using them as pawns in a chess game. Whilst negotiations are ongoing there appears to be little appetite for the government to change this and guarantee these rights. Much to the chagrin of many, EU citizens will continue to look over their shoulder as the British government continues to use them as a bargaining chip with EU negotiators.
Well at the moment if they have been here long enough, they can apply for permanent residence. As a permanent resident, they will be entitled to all the freedoms of a British citizen with only a few quite easy to maintain conditions (Such as stays outside of the country for long periods).
The government's refusal to guarantee these rights has potentially caused many EU citizens to head back to their country of origin, this may not be an unintended consequence. The British government has made a manifesto pledge to reduce immigration to the UK and figures showing EU citizens returning to their countries will not necessarily be unwelcome news to the government.
If you are unsure about your future then get in touch, our specialist immigration solicitors are best placed to help advise you on your rights and the best course of action if you wish to stay in the UK long term.