Academics from across the European Union could love their indefinite leave to remain in the UK following Brexit if they spend long periods of time on study or research leave overseas, according to ministers.
Comments from UK immigration minister Brandon Lewis in response to a parliamentary question on post-Brexit EU policies have triggered fresh warnings about the UK’s reduced appeal as an academic destination, with the MP suggesting that indefinite leave to remain in the UK “would generally be lost if a person was absent from the UK for more than two years, unless they have strong ties here”.
According to Mr Lewis, the position of both Britain and the EU is that applicants for settled status will be required to demonstrate that they have had five years continued residence in the UK. However, EU rules only permit absences of six months to 12 months during this time unless an important reason is provided if applicants are to be successful.
These rules are likely to remain different from those of permanent residence status, according to Sophie Barrett-Brown, senior partner at Laura Devine Solicitors. She explained: “The difference is that permanent residence can only be lost if that person is absent from the UK for a continuous two-year period – so even if you come back in for one day, you’ll keep your status.”
Conversely, indefinite leave to remain in the UK can also be lost if individuals returning to the UK within two years of leaving for research leave are unable to demonstrate that they are returning with the purpose of settlement.