MEPs to debate EU citizens' rights

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Passengers look out from a London bus as it passes an European Union flag in London.Image source, Reuters

Members of the European Parliament are set to debate the requirements for EU citizens to get the right to permanently live in the UK.

An oral question expresses concern about reports that the UK is "restrictively" applying the rules for gaining residence status.

Currently, the UK insists certain EU citizens must have personal health insurance in order to qualify as legally resident after three months.

It comes as many EU citizens apply for the permanent right to stay following the Brexit vote last year.

The requirement for health insurance applies to EU citizens that are not working, self-employed or qualify as looking or work. As such, students and full-time parents are among those most likely to be affected by the obligation.

The Home Office says that having the right to use NHS services does not count.

Although the requirement has existed for a number of years, a number of EU citizens say they were not aware of it.

While the Home Office does not remove people without insurance, it could hamper the ability of some to apply for permanent status.

EU nationals need to have lived lawfully in the UK, continuously for five years, to automatically get permanent residency rights.

For some, the requirement for "lawful" residence may include having personal medical insurance.

Image source, European Parliament
Image caption,
Sophia in't Veld has said EU citizens should get certainty about their future

Conservative MP Sarah Wollaston is among those backing an online petition calling on the UK government to scrap the requirement.

However, the measure was upheld by the Court of Appeal after a case in 2014.

Among those pushing for a debate on the matter in the European Parliament is Dutch MEP Sophia in't Veld, who has previously said the rejection rate for residency applications in the UK is "completely unreasonable".

She is reportedly aiming to lead a group of MEPs who will investigate the experiences of EU nationals applying for permanent status and citizenship.

The Liberal Democrats claim that around 28% of permanent residency requests in the second half of last year were rejected or declared invalid.

The Home Office has denied that refusal rates have changed over the last year.

The European Parliament's civil liberties committee is also due to take evidence on the experience of EU citizens in the UK, as well as British nationals resident in other part of the EU.

You can watch the debate on Wednesday 1 March live on the BBC Parliaments online page.