In less than a year, the UK will begin to leave the EU - leaving three million EU nationals living here at risk of missing the chance to seek permanent residency, due to confusion surrounding the comprehensive sickness insurance they need in order to stay.

As the countdown begins to March 29 2019 - the day the UK begins the formal process of leaving the European Union - we’re calling for clarification about the comprehensive sickness insurance (CSI) needed, and the level of cover required.

Under current UK law, EU citizens coming to the UK as either a student or a self-sufficient person must prove that they have had comprehensive sickness cover in place for at least five years, in order to qualify for permanent residency. The requirement was introduced in 2011 to minimise the burden on the NHS.

Yet no specific guidance on CSI is available to the many EU citizens who contact us to enquire about the type of private medical insurance cover they need to qualify for residency, with current guidelines stating simply that insurance must be comprehensive and ‘cover you for the majority of risks while you are in the UK’.

ActiveQuote private medical insurance team leader Mark Todd said: “This matter really has to be cleared up ahead of Brexit as it could possibly affect millions of people studying in the UK, or who have married UK citizens.

“There is already confusion from many EU citizens who have lived in the UK for years and then come to apply for residency, only to find that they should have had comprehensive sickness insurance in place from day one and weren’t told.

“After the Brexit transition deadline on March 29th 2019, the Home Office will introduce a new ‘settled status’ allowing EU citizens to stay permanently, as they won’t have an automatic right of residency under EU law. It has also said that it will waive the need for comprehensive sickness insurance to qualify, but in the recent draft Brexit withdrawal agreement the European Commission also stated that ‘the comprehensive sickness insurance requirement still applies’ - so, again, there is still uncertainty for those seeking residency in the UK.”

And the situation is even more confusing for non-EU citizens who wish to stay in the UK. Mark added: “Despite searching online, writing to the Home Office and speaking to our local Member of Parliament, we are still no closer to clarifying what is required of non-EU citizens when it comes to comprehensive sickness insurance, and now Brexit is making this even more confusing.

“We believe this needs to be cleared up as a matter of urgency, not just for businesses like us who work in this arena, but also for those people whose futures depend on having the appropriate sickness cover or not.”

Current advice on UK residency for EU citizens can be found on the Government website, whilst students wishing to stay in the UK can get advice from the UK Council for International Student Affairs.