29/03/2018 15:47 BST

EU Parents Urged To Take Steps To Protect Their Child's Right To Stay In The UK After Brexit

Parents are advised to get their paper work in order as soon as possible.

The children of EU citizens living in the UK may be at risk of “falling through the cracks” and having their rights of future residency questioned after Brexit, researchers have warned.

Parents should ensure they have documentation to prove how long they have lived and worked in the UK, advises Charlotte Buckley, senior immigration supervisor at youth justice law specialists, Just For Kids Law

“My advice to all our clients is to apply for residence cards as soon as possible, to protect [children] against forthcoming hostile checks,” she told HuffPost UK. If an application is refused, parents might have to wait a year for the appeal to be heard in the Immigration Tribunal, Buckley said. “Better to start the process well in advance of 29 March 2019 [the official Brexit date].”

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After Brexit, the government states that EEA (European Economic Area) nationals and their family members who, by 29 March 2019, have been lawfully resident for five years, will need to apply for settled status. Additionally, people who arrive by 29 March 2019 will be able to stay until they reach the five year threshold and then apply for settled status.

However, a study by the University of Birmingham published today, found that after Brexit the rights of children whose residency status is dependent on their parents, could be thrown into question.

“The consequences for children are severe and to date largely overlooked. Children will be wholly dependent on their parents to apply for the new types of status,” said Dr Nando Sigona, director of the ‘Eurochildren’ study. “Where parents fail to do so, or for some reason do not qualify, children will lose their lawful status under EU law and drift unknowingly into illegality.”

What should parents do?

Buckley advises getting your documentation in order now, rather than waiting until after Brexit and she suggests you consider applying to the Home Office  for a residency card for yourself and/or your child  as this will act as proof of your right to residency, but it costs £65 to do so.

As well as proof of employment and residence over the last five years, Frances Trevena from children’s legal charity Coram, adds that parents should ensure they have their children’s passports from their country of nationality – as the ability to prove who you are will be integral to any application process.

“Many EU national children will have their own independent right to the new settled status, as well as having a route to apply through their parents. Without more information about the final system that the Home Office is currently designing, it is not possible to say whether this option will be preferable, and it is likely to depend on individual circumstances,” Trevena adds. 

Buckley agreed that the government guidance at this stage is “vague”, and Axel Antoni from campaigning group the3million said this is causing too much uncertainty for families.

“Today’s EuroChildren reports show that citizens’ rights, despite UK Government claims, are far from sorted. These sobering reports show that the impact of settled status on families, spouses and children could be devastating,” he told HuffPost UK.

“We are demanding of the UK Government to end the incredible uncertainty caused, provide EU citizens with written tangible commitments and to finally put people before politics.”

After 12 months of having that permanent residency card, you can apply for citizenship.  However from 6 April the fee for registration will be more than £1,000 per child, “which is unaffordable for many and a significant disincentive to all”, he adds. 

Parents can seek advice through their local Citizens’ Advice Bureau or Coram Law Centre.