Thousands of family members of British citizens living in Ireland have yet to apply for their post-Brexit residency cards, with less than four weeks to go before the December 31 deadline.
While Brexit does not impact the rights of UK nationals to live and work in Ireland, it does affect their ability to sponsor family members from outside of the European Economic Area. (The EEA includes all EU countries plus Iceland, Liechtenstein, and Norway.)
From the start of this year, UK nationals wanting to live with their non-EEA family members in Ireland are no longer eligible to do so under EU free movement rules.
Those who had been living here before December 31, 2020, are covered by the Withdrawal Agreement between the UK and the EU.
Their family members must apply for a new post-Brexit residency card showing that they are beneficiaries of the Withdrawal Agreement by the end of this year.
The Department of Justice estimates that there are 6,000 non-EEA family members of UK nationals in Ireland who need to apply for a Withdrawal Agreement Beneficiary Card.
However, as of November 1 only 1,620 such applications have been received.
The top nationalities of the family members applying are South Africa, Pakistan, Afghanistan, Nigeria, India, and the USA.
Nasc, the Migrant and Refugee Rights Centre, said that the Department's outreach to such families had been “shambolic”, and that they were concerned at the low numbers of applications.
“The contrast between the negligible effort made in Ireland and the comprehensive public information campaigns targeting UK citizens and their family member in other EU Member States is stark,” said Fiona Finn, Nasc’s CEO.
The charity also said there has been “no clarity” from the Department about their plans to deal with those who miss the deadline.
“If their permit is no longer valid that can impact their employment, their housing and their education. This is potentially disastrous for some of these individuals,” Ms Finn said.
“We are particularly concerned about those who experienced a change of circumstances during the pandemic when they lost their employment or had to leave work because they couldn’t access childcare.”
The Department said “a pragmatic case by case approach” will be adopted for those who miss the deadline.
Some individuals may not ultimately need to apply, including because they have become Irish citizens.
The Department added that efforts to communicate the scheme, including via NGOs and the British Embassy, are ongoing.
New visa scheme UK nationals that moved to Ireland since January 1, 2021, must sponsor any non-EEA family members under a preclearance/visa scheme, similar to that applied to other non-EU nationals wishing to bring their family to Ireland.
The eligibility requirements of this scheme are more onerous than EU free movement rules.
A main change in the new scheme is that the British citizen sponsor must now have earned at least €20,000 in each of the three previous years, over and above any entitlement to State benefits.
This figure will rise for UK nationals seeking to be joined by multiple family members and where dependent parents are involved.
New figures show that there have been a total of 118 applications from the family members of British citizens to the visa/preclearance scheme in the first 10 months of this year.
By contrast, there were more than 1,175 EU Treaty Rights residence applications from family members of a British citizen living in Ireland in 2018.
Noting the “sharp decrease” in visa applications from family members of UK citizens this year, Migrant charity Nasc said “it’s not possible to say how much of the decline is attributable to Covid-19 and how much to the more onerous requirements UK citizens must satisfy in order to sponsor their families now”.