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EU national worried about Brexit? Immigration options if the UK votes to leave the EU

For EU nationals who have built a life in the UK, the forthcoming EU referendum on 23 June 2016 may be a cause of great concern.

If, as the “leave” campaign gains momentum, the UK votes to leave the EU and the dreaded ‘Brexit’ occurs, the fundamental EU freedom of free movement of persons would no longer give the residence rights upon which many rely in the UK. Prospective transitional arrangements are as yet unclear, but the UK’s approach would undoubtedly be less generous to EU migrants.

As such, it may be worth considering making an application for a document certifying permanent residence (if an EEA national has exercised Treaty rights for a continuous period of five years), or an application for ILR, or even applying for British citizenship.

Permanent Residence

Many EU nationals who have been in the UK for a long time may have already acquired the right of permanent residence. For workers and self-employed EU nationals, there have not been many reasons to apply for a document certifying permanent residence, but the importance of this document could increase following a vote to leave. It is likely that there would be some transitional arrangements even if the UK sought to remove all EU rights from nationals in the UK, but having evidence to show the acquisition of a permanent right of residence is likely to strengthen an EU national’s position should the UK vote to leave.

Permanent Residence can be acquired through the continuous exercise of Treaty rights as a worker, self-employed person, self-sufficient person or student for five years, or a mixture of these. Please see below for further information.

  1. Right of permanent residence
  2. Acquisition of permanent residence under EEA law

The fee for such an application is £65.

Indefinite Leave to Remain (Long Residence)

For EU nationals who have been in the UK exercising Treaty rights for over 10 years, there is an option to have the UK Immigration Rules recognise their right to remain indefinitely. Please see our post on the absence requirements. The right of indefinite leave to remain is equivalent to that of Permanent Residence, but would not be subject to any transitional arrangements should the UK vote to leave, and can be applied for at various centres around the country using a same day service. The Home Office fee increase from £1,500 to £1,875 on 18 March 2016, and a same day service appointment costs an additional £400.


It has been a requirement for EU nationals seeking to naturalise as British citizens to have a document certifying permanent residence since November 2015. To qualify for naturalisation, an applicant must have been settled for a year, meet the good character requirements, and the residence requirements. The decision to naturalise should not be taken lightly – as currently it seems, bizarrely, to reduce the future rights of family members under the EEA Regulations. However, if you are concerned about protecting your position in the UK should the vote be to leave, then being a British citizen definitely offers protection (though will not be in time to vote!).

Contact Us – EEA Barristers in London

To discuss your eligibility for a document certifying permanent residence, indefinite leave to remain or British citizenship, contact our EEA 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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