Theresa May has said she wants EU citizens living in the UK to stay after Brexit as she announced plans designed to put their “anxiety to rest”.
All EU nationals living in the UK lawfully for at least five years will be granted “settled status” and be able to bring over spouses and children.
Those who come after an as-yet-agreed cut-off point will be given two years to “regularise their status”.
Jeremy Corbyn said the offer was “not generous” and “too little, too late”.
Labour said the UK should have made a unilateral guarantee of security to EU citizens in the aftermath of last year’s Brexit vote.
A 15-page document outlining the detail of the UK’s offer to EU citizens has been published as Theresa May addresses MPs on the outcome of Friday’s EU summit – at which she first set out her plans.
She told the Commons that she wanted to give reassurance and certainty to the 3.2 million EU citizens in the UK – as well as citizens of the three EEA countries and Switzerland – who she said were an “integral part of the economic and cultural fabric” of the UK.
But she said any deal on their future legal status and rights must be reciprocal and also give certainty to the 1.2 million British expats living on the continent after the UK leaves the EU – expected to be on 29 March 2019.
The key points of the UK’s proposals are:
Under the plan, all those with five years of continuous residence in the UK would be able to apply for “settled status” and could expect roughly the same benefits, in terms of access to pensions, welfare and healthcare, as UK citizens.
Mrs May said the application process would be simplified and a “light touch” approach adopted. The existing application process for permanent residency involves filling out a 85-page form and has been widely criticised.
“Under these plans, no EU citizen currently in the UK lawfully will be asked to leave at the point the UK leaves the EU,” Mrs May said.
She told MPs that those granted settled status, equivalent to having indefinite leave to remain, would be “treated as if they were UK citizens for healthcare, benefits and pensions”.
Mrs May said spouses, children and other family members currently living outside the UK would be able to return and apply for settled status on the same basis as the dependents of British citizens.
Pressed by several Labour MPs, she suggested there would be no income barriers for those whose relatives have been here for more than five years.
“There will be no extra requirements,” she said. “We are not talking about splitting up families.”
She also insisted the UK should police the new rules rather than the European Court of Justice.
But Mr Corbyn said the question of citizens’ rights should have been dealt with in isolation rather than being dragged into the “delicate and complex” matrix of trade and other Brexit-related issues now being discussed.
“The prime minister went to Brussels last week to make what she described as a generous offer to EU nationals in this country,” he said.
“The truth is it is too little, too late. That could have been done and should have been done a year ago when Labour put that very proposal to the House of Commons. This isn’t a generous offer. This is confirmation the government is prepared to use people as bargaining chips.”
And the SNP’s Ian Blackford said there were still “more questions than answers” about how EU citizens living in Scotland would be affected.