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EU nationals and family members - post-Brexit applications

The Brexit referendum vote announced on 24 June 2016 came as a shock to many, but has no immediate impact on the rights of EU nationals and their family members in the UK.

There is no urgent need to act to avoid removal from the UK, but the current reality is that the UK will leave the EU, and thus the rights of residence which EU nationals and their family members have enjoyed may cease to exist in their current form.

It is likely that there will be transitional arrangements to protect the rights of EU nationals and their family members, but there have been no firm proposals.

In order to protect against changing rules in the future, it may be wise for EU nationals who have been in the UK for five years or more to apply for a document certifying permanent residence, and if their family members have been here for five years or more, a permanent residence card. Demonstrating acquisition of the right of permanent residence is likely to be beneficial and to provide a greater level of certainty, as this is an equivalent to indefinite leave to remain, and opens the possibility of naturalisation for adults after 12 months.

Document certifying Permanent Residence

The requirements are that the EU national has exercised Treaty rights in the UK for a continuous five year period. This can be as a worker, self-employed person, self-sufficient person with comprehensive sickness insurance, or student with sickness insurance, or combination of these.

‘Continuous’ requires residence in the UK for six months or more in any year.

It is possible to base an application on a historic period, so long as the EU national has not been absent for two continuous years since the end of this period.

Family member Permanent Residence Card applications

The applications of family members require a demonstration that the applicant has lived in the UK continuously as the family member of an EEA national for five years, and that the EEA national was exercising Treaty rights for a continuous five year period, or that they had already acquired the right of permanent residence.

Naturalisation after showing acquisition of permanent residence

If the five year period relied upon ended more than 12 months ago, it would be possible for the EU national or family member to consider making an application to naturalise as a British citizen if they met the residence requirements and good character requirements.

The Home Office is required to decide applications within 6 months as a matter of EU law. It is possible for EU nationals and their family members to request for their passports to be returned to them during this time, though the increased number of applicants in recent weeks means that this process is not likely to be speedy.

Contact Us

If you are an EU national or family member of an EU national and would like advice in relation to applying for a document certifying permanent residence, a permanent residence card of naturalisation as a British citizen, contact our immigration barristers in London on 0203 617 9173 or via our online enquiry form.


To arrange an initial consultation meeting, call our immigration barristers on 0203 617 9173 or fill out the form below.

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