A new report suggests that the UK may have to process 140 years’ worth of visa applications in just one year following the vote to leave the European Union.
That’s according to the Migration Observatory at Oxford University, which has been looking at likely scenarios if the 3.5 million EU citizens currently in the UK rush to secure their residency rights in Britain.
At the moment, around 25,500 permanent residency requests from EU nationals and their families are handled by the Home Office, and it’s likely there would be a major backlog if restrictions are put on EU citizens currently in the UK.
Migration Observatory director Madeleine Sumption said that if there were hold ups in the system, huge numbers of people could face problems, for example with proving they did not require a UK visa to apply for a job.
She said: “There is a massive task that lies ahead for the Home Office. Part of that is the sheer number of applicants to be processed. The other thing that will affect the scale of the task is how complex the application is — what criteria people have to meet and what documents they’re expected to produce.”
There are also concerns that various groups of EU migrants who have not signed up for the comprehensive sickness insurance may not be able to secure permanent residence.
The Migration Observatory calculates that this group is around 471,000 strong or around 15 per cent of the EU nationals currently in the UK, and includes students, people who are not working and who have retired.
Ms Sumption said: “There is still a morass of unresolved questions about who will qualify and how.
“Unless the new process post-Brexit is a lot simpler, there could be quite a lot of EU nationals already living here who are excluded.”