This information was last updated: 13 December 2016
EU nationals are currently entitled to move freely to the UK. They can come here to work, to seek work, to be self-employed, to study, or to reside here as self-sufficient people.
As a result of the referendum in June 2016 it is very likely that the UK will leave the European Union. For those EU nationals already living in the UK it is not yet clear whether you will be able to remain or if so in what circumstances .
If you are worried about your future status in the UK there are various steps that you can take to either secure residence now or to put yourself in a stronger position for the future.
The two questions to ask yourself are:
- How long have I lived in the UK?
- What have I been doing during that period and what am I doing now?
If the answer to the first question is that you have lived in the UK for over 5 years then it is possible that you have acquired the right to reside permanently in the UK under Regulation 15 of the Immigration (EEA) Regulations 2006.
Whether you have acquired that right will depend on what you have been doing during the 5 years.
That is where we come to the second question.
If the answer to the second question is that during the 5 year period you have been a worker, a self-employed person, a student, or self-sufficient (or a combination of these) then you will probably have been residing in accordance with the EEA Regulations exercising your “Treaty Rights” as a “qualified person”. As a result you will have acquired permanent residence under Regulation 15.
There are various technical details which may affect you. For example; periods of registered unemployment may count, periods spent abroad of less than six months in any year will not break continuity of residence, to qualify as a student or self-sufficient you will need to have had comprehensive sickness insurance, and you may qualify as a worker even if you have ceased activity during the 5 years. Nationals from various eastern European countries (known as the A8 and EU2 countries) may have needed to comply with worker registration schemes. Croatian nationals are currently restricted in the work they can undertake.
What then should you do?
If you have lived in the UK for 5 years and have been a “qualified person” during those 5 years then you should apply to the Home Office for a Permanent Residence Card. This card will confirm that you have acquired the right to reside permanently in the UK and almost certainly this will mean that you can remain in the UK after the UK leaves the EU.
You make the application by completing Form EEA(PR)
It is important that you provide sufficient documents to show that you have been exercising your “Treaty Rights” as a “qualified person” for 5 years. The documents required are set out in the Guidance to Form EEA(PR).
There are different types of documents required depending on whether you have been a worker (eg pay slips and more) or self-employed (eg tax returns and more). For students and the self-sufficient there is the requirement to have had comprehensive sickness insurance which can cause difficulties. A private health insurance policy will be sufficient as will a European Health Insurance Card if issued in your home EU state.
Once you have received your Permanent Residence Card you will usually be able to apply to naturalise as a British citizen 12 months later. If you have exercised “Treaty Rights” for 6 years then you will be able to apply to naturalise as soon as you receive your Permanent Residence card so long as when you applied for the card the evidence that you supplied for your EEA(PR) application was for a 5 year period that ended at least a year before you apply for citizenship.
If you apply for Permanent Residence on 1st December 2015 and want to apply for British citizenship once that application is decided, you should send evidence with your EEA(PR) application that shows you were exercising Treaty rights as a qualified person or family member from 1 December 2009 to 1 December 2014
To apply to naturalise as a British citizen once you have a Permanent Residence card you complete Form AN.
Before doing so you should read the requirements in Booklet AN
If you have not yet lived in the UK for 5 years or have not exercised Treaty Rights for that period of time then you should consider applying for a Registration Certificate. This document will confirm your current right to reside in the UK under EU law. It may be that having a valid Registration Certificate could be relevant to whether you can continue to reside in the UK when the UK has completed negotiations to leave the European Union.
You apply for a Registration Certificate by completing Form EEA (QP).
You should read the Guidance to Form EEA (QP) before completing the form to ensure you are aware of the required supporting documents.
You will need to show that you are currently exercising a Treaty Right (eg working, self-employed, student, self-sufficient etc).
If you have family members who are not themselves EU nationals and are not British then they can apply for a Residence Card to confirm their right to reside with you as their family member. The form they complete to apply will depend on the type of family relationship. If your family member has resided with you for 5 years in the UK they may well have acquired permanent residence alongside you and can apply on form EEA(PR) as above. In some situations a family member will retain the right to reside on the breakdown of a marriage.
One other thing to bear in mind – if you are an EU national who was born in the UK after 1/1/83, or if you have children who were born in the UK after that date – then if you spent the first 10 years of your life in the UK without leaving for more than 90 days in each of those 10 years you are entitled to apply to register as a British Citizen. You do that on Form T.
Making any of the applications set out here will usually require you to make the application by post. They can take up to six months to be decided. The only exception to this is a Registration Certificate application which can be made at a Premium Service Centre in person.
You will see from all the application forms that they are lengthy and require numerous supporting documents to show that you have been exercising your “Treaty Rights” as a “qualified person”. This is a complex area of law and you need to ensure you read everything carefully and provide all the supporting documents. Home Office Guidance on how the EEA Regulations should be interpreted and applied by caseworkers is publicly available.
It is important that if your case is not straightforward you seek advice. The Regulations make provisions for various circumstances too varied to deal with here and you may qualify for residence even though you do not appear to at first glance. There may be options available to you.
Can we help?
If you need advice or want a solicitor to check your application please do not hesitate to contact our Immigration Department. Consultations can be booked by phoning Dionne on 0208 885 7979. She can also provide details of our fees for advice and assistance. Alternatively you can contact us by email with your enquiry.
You never know – the UK may decide it is better off in Europe after all. Time will tell.
By Matthew Davies – Partner
The information provided in this How To: is general advice and information and Wilsons Solicitors LLP accepts no liability for its applicability to the facts of your individual circumstances.
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