Virginia, US

I am a French National and I have been living in the UK for more than 10 years.

Thursday 23 June 2016, 10.00 pm I am preparing to watch the result of the referendum on EU membership which will be announced overnight. I know it is going to be a long night but I am determined to pull an all-nighter to see the results announced live throughout the UK.

The polls have been close throughout the campaign but the Remain camp has pulled ahead in the few days leading up to the vote.

The state of play at 3.00 am after 100 of 382 areas declared – it’s still quite close. I can’t remember what happened next… I suppose I must have fallen asleep.

I woke up a few hours later to the breaking news that Britain had voted for Brexit by 51.9 per cent to 48.1 per cent.

I was shocked by the news, and deeply confused. After talking to fellow EU citizens living in the UK, I realised that they had the same feelings. We have been living, working and paying tax in the UK for many years, and we are now facing an uncertain future. What will happen to us? We fear for our job security, and we are worried about the impact on our personal lives.

Sunday 2 October marked 100 days since Britain voted to leave the EU, and many questions remain unanswered: ‘what’s next?’ Will EU citizens currently living in Britain retain the same right once Brexit is completed? Is there a possibility of deportation in the future?

Prime Minister Theresa May has confirmed during the Conservative Party conference that she will trigger the formal process for the UK to leave the European Union by the end of March 2017.

Brexit Secretary David Davis promised the rights of EU citizens living in the UK will be protected as long as those of Britons living in Europe are guaranteed.

It has become clear that until the formal exit process and negotiations start between the UK and the EU it is difficult to predict what will happen to EU citizens currently living in the UK.

How do we prepare?

Under the current immigration rules EU nationals can live and work in the UK without any further immigration documentation until after the terms of the exit are negotiated and the UK formally leaves the European Union. It is almost certain that free movement will end with Brexit and EU nationals already in the UK will need to register their stay. Here are some of the options currently available – other options may be available depending on personal circumstances:

  • EEA Permanent Residence Card: At present, EEA nationals who have spent 5 years in the UK exercising their treaty rights (i.e working/studying/self sufficient) may be eligible to apply for a document to certify Permanent Residence (PR) - equivalent of settlement/Indefinite Leave to Remain and is also now a pre-requisite for EEA nationals who wish to apply for British citizenship.   
  • Naturalisation as a British Citizen: An EEA national may be eligible to apply to naturalise as a British citizen once they have resided in the UK for 6 years, and hold permanent residency. They can apply immediately after receiving permanent residency if married to a British Citizen.
  • Registration Certificate: An EEA national who wishes to acquire a formal right of residence can apply to the Home Office for a registration certificate valid for five years. This Certificate serves to confirm that they have the right to live in the UK under European Community law.
What are employers doing in light of Brexit?
The most striking thing about Brexit and its aftermath is that it is not only the EU citizens who are concerned over their futures in the UK. Employers also voiced their concerned over what will happen to their EU workforce.

Fragomen is helping businesses do what they can in the short term, ready for any eventual change in immigration policy, and conducted a Brexit survey asking companies what, if anything, they are doing in light of Brexit.

Our ‘Helping business prepare for Brexit' survey report has been published. The report outlines what companies are doing as they wait for the immigration consequences of Brexit to become clearer. To view the report, click here.