With there continues to be great uncertainty about the future of over 3 million EU nationals living in post-Brexit Britain, it really is critical that EU nationals take immediate steps to try and secure the most favourable position they can while there is still time.
Here are 5 things that EU nationals should do immediately.
1. APPLY FOR A REGISTRATION CERTIFICATE
Every EU national who is living in the UK and exercising ‘Treaty rights’, i.e. either looking for work, working, studying, self-employed, or self-sufficient, automatically acquires a right of residence in the UK.
If you fall within this category, you do not need to possess a Registration Certificate as evidence of this right but can apply for one should you wish to.
It is a bit like having a British passport. It is your right to have one and you can use it to travel and as evidence of your nationality but if you don’t have one, it does not mean that you are not British.
Although it is not necessary to have a Registration Certificate, in light of the uncertain future ahead, it will only help EU nationals and their family members to have these documents.
Your direct family members (partner and children) are also entitled to these documents, even if they are not EU nationals.
The application fee is just £65, which is considerably less than the Home Office charges for other immigration applications and the form, although 85 pages long, is relatively straightforward.
The application form can be found via the link at the end of this post.
Applications submitted without a form are likely to be rejected.
2. APPLY FOR A PERMANENT RESIDENCE DOCUMENT
After five years of continuously exercising Treaty rights, EU nationals and their family members automatically become permanently resident in the UK.
This is the EU equivalent of securing indefinite leave to remain in the UK.
As with the Registration Certificate, there is no need to obtain this document and the permanent residence is acquired independently of it.
For EU nationals who have been in the UK for over five years, you can take any five year period during that time. Breaks in working or studying of up to 6 months are OK as long as you can evidence that you were jobseeking during that period.
Example: Klaus is a German national who has been living in the UK since 2009. Between 2009 and 2014, Klaus worked in McDonalds.
However, having been inspired watching the German football team lift the World Cup in 2014, Klaus decided to leave his job and try his hand at professional football. After two years of failing to impress any talent scouts, Klaus returned to his job as area manager at McDonalds in September 2016.
Although Klaus has not been exercising Treaty rights for the past two years, he would have acquired permanent residence in 2014 because he was working for five years continuously, and can rely on this period to obtain a Permanent Residence Document
After you have had permanent residence for one year, you can apply for citizenship. You must have the Permanent Residence Document to apply and an application for citizenship without this document will be refused.
Therefore if you are an EU national and wish to naturalise at some point in the future, and you have acquired permanent residence, you should apply for this card.
The application fee is again £65 and the form can be found via the link below.
3. STUDENTS OR SELF-SUFFICIENT: TAKE OUT COMPREHENSIVE HEALTH INSURANCE
While EU nationals studying in the UK are entitled to access the NHS, if you want to be regarded as EU citizens with a right of residence, it is critical that you take out a comprehensive health insurance policy.
Otherwise, you may end up in the same boat as my client Yassir.
Yassir is a Saudi Arabian national married to Gráinne, an Irish national working in the UK. They have been married for five years.
Although Gráinne has been working for the past two years, she was previously studying for her degree.
After five years together, Yassir applied for a Permanent Residence Card on the basis of his marriage to an EU national exercising Treaty rights in the UK.
The application was refused because Gráinne did not have comprehensive health insurance for the three years that she was in university, and therefore she was not regarded as a ‘student’ under EEA law.
Those three years therefore are not counted as part of the five years needed.
Yassir will now need to wait another three years before he becomes permanently resident in the UK.
If you have had permanent residence for at least one year, you can apply to naturalise as a British citizen.
This is obviously the most secure position that you can be in. However, you should check whether your country of origin permits you to possess dual citizenship in such circumstances, as if it does not, your acquiring British citizenship could result in your losing your European citizenship.
WARNING: Once you naturalise, you are treated by the law as a British citizen, even if you have dual citizenship.
Therefore, if you have non-European family members whose right to reside in the UK is based on your living in the UK as an EU national, they could lose their right to reside here.
You could end up like my client David. Read about his story here.
5. DO IT NOW
It is important to try and secure your footing in the UK for the foreseeable future.
Predictably there will be a tidal wave of applications for Registration Certificates and Permanent Residence Documents as the exit date looms ever nearer.
Get your application in NOW and avoid getting caught in the backlog.
Currently the Home Office are required by law to process applications within 6 months although it is inevitable that as the volume of applications increase, it will be impossible for it to comply with such a deadline.
So don’t delay, apply today!
Visadreams.com, Diary of an Immigration Lawyer, is a blog run by Fahad Ansari, the director and principal solicitor of Riverway Law, a niche UK immigration and nationality law practice based in London. If you would like any advice or assistance in relation to your immigration matter, please do not hesitate to email me at firstname.lastname@example.org or submit your details here.