Calling all EU nationals living in the UK
As we are all aware the EU referendum is not far away now and the question we are all asking is will Britain leave the European Union (EU)?
The referendum is being held on 23rd June and depending on which way the majority of the UK public votes go; we may well be on the path to leave the EU.
Brexit will undoubtedly have an effect on EU nationals currently working or studying the in UK, who have not yet applied for settlement, as it is uncertain as to what would happen to them. Whilst we do not anticipate that they would be asked to leave the UK imminently, we do know if their free-movement rights would be affected.
If you are an EU national in the UK and you have your family here, it is advisable that you check if you are eligible to apply for Permanent Residence or Naturalisation to become British. For those with children who are studying in the UK, it is important to ensure you have the right to remain in the should the law change, as uprooting with a family at short notice can be quite difficult.
What can you do?
For EU nationals who have been in the UK and exercising their Treaty rights for five years or more, should be able to apply for Permanent Residence. Previously EU nationals who had been in the UK exercising their Treaty rights in the UK automatically acquired Permanent Residence without the need to submit an application to the Home Office.
However, in November 2015 a change came in to effect that EU nationals would now need to apply for a Permanent Residence Card and it would not be automatically acquired, this rule also applied to anyone who had already spent more than 5 years in the UK exercising their Treaty rights.
To ensure that you are not affected if Britain exits the EU it is advisable to submit an application for Permanent Residence.
Have I been exercising my Treaty Rights in the UK?
There are several ways in which EEA nationals can exercise their Treaty rights in the UK- see below.
- Employed in the UK in a full or part time capacity
- Seeking employment in the UK
- Self-employed in the UK
- Studying in the UK and holding comprehensive sickness insurance
- Being self-sufficient and holding comprehensive sickness insurance
Provided you have been carrying out one or a combination of the above activities in the UK and are able to show evidence of this over 5 years or more you should be able to apply for Permanent Residence.
How long does an application for Permanent Residence take to process?
These type of applications usually take between 4-6 months to process, however the Home Office are expected to be inundated with applications with the run up to the referendum and anticipate processing times to be much longer as many EU nationals will want to secure their rights in the UK. Therefore, to avoid getting stuck in this backlog it is advisable to apply sooner rather than later.
Applying for British Citizenship after Permanent Residence
If you already possess a document certifying that you hold Permanent Residence in the UK, you can apply for naturalisation to become British Citizen, 12 months after you have held Permanent Residence status. You would need to have been in the UK for 6 years, 5 years exercising your Treaty rights and one year to have held Permanent Residence Status.
However, if you have been in the UK for 6 years or more and never applied for a document certifying that you are a Permanent Resident in the UK, your first step would be to obtain this document first. Due to the rule change last year, EU residents who wish to apply for Naturalisation to become British must first possess a Permanent Residence card. Once you have the had the application approved and are in receipt of the BRP card which confirms you hold Permanent Residence status in the UK, you can apply for Naturalisation straight away and do not have to wait 12 months.
Can I remain a national of my country of origin?
UK allows dual-citizenship; therefore, the answer would depend on which country you originally belong to as they may not allow dual-citizenship. You would therefore need to check with the Embassy/Consulate of the country you hold a passport for, to confirm if they allow you to hold dual citizenship.
Given the uncertainty of which way the referendum would go, we advise that if you are unsure on what you can do then call us and speak to us about your circumstances. Getting advice on what your options are will never hurt, and prevention is certainly better than cure.
If you are eligible to apply for Permanent Residence or Naturalisation, our UK immigration lawyers at Hudson McKenzie will advise on the list of documents which are tailored to your individual application which you will need to submit as part of your application, review to confirm all your documents are in order, draft the forms on your behalf and provide representations to the Home Office. We try to eliminate the stress of a document intensive application by providing advice and support wherever possible.
Please give us a call on 020 3318 5794 or email at firstname.lastname@example.org and we will be happy to speak with you and advise on your options.