EU Citizens: Keep Your Right to Remain in the UK

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Immigration law for EU Nationals

After the recent comments published in the Observer by Anthony Browne citing the warning of the chief executive of the British Bankers’ Association that major players are already planning to relocate from Britain following the vote to leave the European Union, we highlight the options available to European citizens to secure their residency status and rights to remain in the UK, or, for some, to secure an option to come back to the UK at some point in the future.

As the law currently stands, citizens of the EU and their family members, including their non-EU family members, have rights to live and work in the UK. The main condition for the right to reside in the UK is for EU citizens to exercise their treaty rights – i.e. they must be in employment or self-employed, students or be self-sufficient. Following the referendum, three million EU citizens living in the UK face uncertainty about whether they will be allowed to stay once the UK leaves the EU.

Although there is no immediate answer to the concern of the EU citizens, there are measures that can be taken to crystallise rights of residence securing certainty. It is advisable for EU citizens, wishing to preserve their rights of residency in the UK, to make an application to the UK Visa & Immigration for a document certifying residency.

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Residence documents

There are categories of applications under the European regulations which can benefit the EU citizens and their non-EU family members living in the UK: a Document certifying permanent residence status for EU nationals and dependent family members, a Registration certificate for EU citizens exercising EU treaty rights, Family permits and Registration cards – for non-EU family members. Since the status of non-EU family members directly depends on the status of the EU citizen, it is advisable for any family members who are currently not resident in the UK, but planning to relocate in due course (or would like to reserve an option to relocate), to take advantage of the current regulations and make an application for a residence document prior to the UK leaving the EU, since the applications under the European regulations are much simpler and cheaper than any other visa applications under the UK Immigration rules.

Rights to permanent residence

As outlined above, EU citizens have rights to reside in the UK if they can demonstrate that they are exercising the EU treaty rights. Providing that a EU citizen has been residing in the UK working for a period of 5 years, he or she is considered to have acquired status of a Permanent resident. The status of Permanent resident is a virtual one and does not require an actual document to obtain the status. However, in view of the forthcoming exit from the EU, the Document certifying permanent residence is crucial as proof of the right to remain in the UK without limit or restrictions. Once acquired, it is highly unlikely that the government would withdraw such rights post Brexit as it would be against the doctrine of legitimate expectations and retrospective application of law. However, it must be noted that the rights to permanent residence will expire if the individual in question is absent from the UK for a period of two years.

Route to British citizenship

After twelve months following acquisition of the Permanent residence status (providing that certain requirements of the Nationality law are met) a holder of the status may apply to be naturalised as a British citizen. Similar rules apply to any non-EU family members, who can qualify for naturalisation following completion of 5 years residency as a family member of a EU citizen and 12 months under the permanent resident status. Since November 2015, the Nationality department requires EU citizens to submit the document confirming permanent residence in support of the application for naturalisation and, therefore, anyone wishing to be naturalised as a British citizen must first obtain the permanent residence document.

The current outlook – there is still time to apply for permanent residence and British citizenship as it is not expected for the Immigration laws to change for some time. Should you wish to discuss your individual circumstances, please get in touch with us.

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Immigration law is an evolving area, requiring an understanding of business and compliance as well as the social, economic and political factors which influence immigration to the UK. Contact us today on immigrationteam@ibblaw.co.uk or 03456 381381 to see how we can help you with your immigration matter.

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