Virginia, US
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| Kiran Dhillon

EEA Permanent Residence in UK– Making an Application

The triggering of Article 50 is only days away and we are seeing an increasing number of European nationals approach us with the same question; should I bother applying for a document certifying Permanent Residence now?

For those wishing to naturalise as a British citizen, the answer is a definite yes. Since 12 November 2015 citizens of EEA countries (expect Ireland) must hold a physical document certifying their permanent residence in the UK and must have held permanent residence for a minimum of 12 months before they can naturalise as British citizens (unless you are married to a British national).

Permanent residence is something that an EEA national can acquire automatically, but this automatic right does not provide the individual with a physical document certifying their status. It is not currently mandatory to hold a document certifying permanent residence but it can be applied for and would act as evidence of an individual’s pre-existing right of permanent residence.

For those that may not wish to naturalise as British, but have remained in the UK for a period of 5 continuous years exercising European Treaty Rights, it also seems worthwhile to apply at this stage for peace of mind while exit negotiations progress. ​

Why are Some EEA Nationals Looking to Document their UK Immigration Status?

Whilst it seems unlikely the UK will formally exit the EU for another year at least and we simply don’t know whether free movement will continue after the separation, the Government’s White Paper published in February hinted that free movement as we know it will almost certainly end.

If we see the end of free movement rights post-Brexit, there could be a mechanism to distinguish pre-Brexit EEA nationals, perhaps a registration scheme to allow them to evidence their immigration status at the border and to potential employers.

EEA nationals residing in the UK at present are looking ahead and seeking ways to gain reassurance and protection from future legislative changes by obtaining documents certifying their current status. ​

Who Qualifies for Permanent Residence?

An EEA national has the right of residence in the UK for as long as they exercise their Treaty rights here. This can be achieved through employment, self-employment, studying, job seeking or self-sufficiency (or a combination of these). 

After an EEA national has exercised Treaty rights for a continuous period of 5 years, they automatically become permanently resident by operation of EU law. The individual can then apply for a document certifying Permanent Residence to evidence their pre-existing right, although there is no compulsion to do so.​ ​

What Does the Application Process Involve?

Since 1 October 2016 EEA nationals have the option to apply for Permanent Residence online, subject to meeting certain eligibility criteria, and the online process involves attending a participating Local Authority office using the ‘European Passport Return Service’. Alternatively, they can still apply using the traditional paper application form, EEA (PR).

To benefit from the ‘European Passport Return Service’, an EEA national should:

  • collate evidence of how they’ve exercised their European Treaty rights over the relevant five year period;
  • submit an online application form, make payment of the £65 application fee and print the submitted form; and
  • book an appointment for submission of the application and supporting evidence at a participating Local Authority office.

 

The Passport Return Service does what it says on the tin; it allows the individual to retain their European passport or national ID card(s) at the end of appointment once the ID documents have been copied and certified by the Local Authority. The Local Authority submit the application to the Home Office for processing, together with the certified copy of the ID documents. Local Authority appointment booking protocols vary, some operate a walk in service whereas others require a pre-booked appointment. It is essential to check the chosen Local Authority protocols before submitting the online application as to use the Local Authority Service, the online form must have been submitted no earlier than 5 working days before the appointment.

The option of applying via the paper form is still available, however, the original European passport or national ID card would be required to be submitted to the Home Office for processing together with all other supporting evidence. 

The Home Office does not offer a priority service for these applications and the processing times average up to 6 months. Currently, we are seeing applications returned within 4-5 months.

Sticky Topic

Individuals relying on a period of study or self-sufficiency in the UK as part of their five year qualifying period have an extra burden since these individuals must have held Comprehensive Sickness Insurance (CSI) during the period of study or self sufficiency.

If you are applying as a self-sufficient person or student, CSI is a requirement and the medical insurance policy document should be included with your application. You may also have held CSI through a European Health Insurance card issued by a non-UK EU member state.

Although it is unlikely that EU citizens will be removed from the UK or refused entry solely because they do not have CSI, the lack of this insurance for student or self-sufficient persons can pose an issue in a permanent residency application.

Also, caution if you have had any significant absences from the UK greater than a total of 6 months in any 12 month period during the 5 year qualifying period. We would suggest that a schedule outlining any absences from the UK is included with the application as it may be scrutinised if travel is excessive.​

Should I Submit an Application?

We think it makes sense to obtain a document certifying permanent residence if you are eligible to do so at this stage. Once you hold this document, you will be comfortable in the knowledge that you hold evidence of your settled status in the UK.

Fragomen are able to advise on all aspects of your application, provide an assessment of eligibility or review any documents you may have already put together yourself.

Should you require any assistance with your application for permanent residency, please contact your Fragomen representative for a consultation.