The Government has clarified that until the Brexit process has been completed there will be no changes to the rights of EU nationals entering, living, and working in the UK.
Theresa May has said she does not expect the formal exit process to commence until 2017. The UK then has two years to complete the process. In the interim, with the exception of Croatian nationals, all EU citizens are fully entitled to enter the UK for any purpose, though strict curbs on entitlement to claim welfare benefits while here are expected to be imposed. Those with five years’ continuous residence are (and will continue to be) entitled to remain after Brexit, and on achieving six years’ residence will be entitled to claim British citizenship.
The only curb on the rights outlined above will affect EU nationals who entered the UK unlawfully, or who commit serious crimes while in the UK. As at present, they may be returned to their country of origin.
The rights of non-EU dependants and extended family members are more complex and will require specialist immigration advice.
Irish nationals are treated differently, and are entitled to virtually the same rights as UK citizens, and this will remain the case.
From a UK perspective, UK citizens will continue to be able to move freely throughout the EU and will continue to qualify for medical assistance on the same basis as the citizens of the countries they are in. The Government has said it is committed to protecting the rights of UK citizens currently resident in other EU countries after Brexit.