The UK has to formally apply to leave the EU by triggering Article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty. There will be negotiations between the UK and EU on the terms of the UK’s exit which are likely to take at least two years.
It would be reasonable to expect that, as part of those negotiations, transitional arrangements will be put in place for EEA nationals already living and exercising treaty rights in the UK when the UK exits the EU.
In the meantime, we have been contacted by many EEA nationals and their employers concerned about their ability to continue living and working in the UK. Some of the most common questions being asked are set out below.
Recruitment businesses and the EEA nationals they employ or engage (including the EEA nationals they supply to end clients as temporary resources) should consider these and any other issues they may have and seek advice where needed.
Q1 - I am an EEA national and have been working in the UK for the last nine years. What does this decision mean to me?
It is likely that those EEA nationals already in the UK who have been exercising a Treaty right in the UK for at least five years will not be affected by the UK’s exit from the EU.
These EEA nationals will have acquired permanent residence and should apply to the UK Visas & Immigration (UKVI) to have their permanent residence confirmed.
As part of that application, they will need to submit evidence showing that they have been a ‘qualified’ person (exercising a Treaty right in the UK) for the last five years. The application fee is £65 and the relevant form is EEA(PR).
Successful applicants will receive a Biometric Residence Permit (BRP) confirming that they have permanent residence in the UK.
Q2 - I have been living and working in the UK for much longer than five years, does that mean I have to submit evidence of my employment throughout my time living and working in the UK?
You can submit more evidence but you only need to show a period of five years.
We recommend that you submit evidence for five years plus a further 12 months (so a total of six years) so that if you choose to you can show you are eligible to apply for naturalisation as a British citizen (see below).
You should submit the most up-to-date evidence for the last six years with a covering letter requesting that the UKVI confirms that you acquired permanent residence at least 12 months ago even though the date of issue on your BRP will be the date it was issued. This will make it easier for you to apply for naturalisation as a British citizen.
Q3 - I have been living and working in the UK as an EEA national for 18 months. What should I do?
You will have acquired the right to be in the UK as you are a qualified person exercising a Treaty right in the UK by working.
You can apply for a registration certificate confirming you are exercising treaty rights in the UK. Once you are granted the certificate, you will not have to wait for five years from the date of the certificate to acquire permanent residence, you can count the 18 months you spent in the UK before obtaining the registration certificate.
Q4 - I am an EEA national and have been living in the UK for the past six years. I was a student studying at university for three years and since I graduated I have been employed for three years. I did not have sickness insurance when I was in the UK studying as I had access to the NHS.
Can I apply for confirmation of my permanent residence?
Unfortunately, you were not a qualified person during your three years of study, as you did not have comprehensive sickness insurance during this period.
EEA nationals exercising a Treaty Right in the UK as a student or a self-sufficient person have to show that they have comprehensive sickness insurance in the UK to meet the definition of a qualified person. You will have to count the five years to qualify for permanent residence from when you were a qualified person, i.e. from when you commenced employment. We recommend that you apply for a registration certificate (see above).
Q5 - I am an EEA national and I am considering applying to become a British citizen. How can I do this?
To apply for naturalisation as a British citizen you have to show you have been in the UK for five years legally and the last 12 months without time constraints.
You need to show that you have had permanent residence for at least 12 months, i.e. a minimum of six years.
As an EEA national you acquire the right to be in the UK by being a qualified person exercising a Treaty Right and you do not have to apply for confirmation of this. However, in light of the referendum vote, we would recommend that you apply for confirmation of your permanent residence (see above). You will need confirmation of your permanent residence from the UKVI to apply for naturalisation.
You also have to pass the Life in the UK test and pass an approved English language test, be a national of a majority speaking English country, as listed by the UKVI or have a degree taught or researched in the UK or other majority English speaking country other than Canada. You also have to meet all of the requirements as stated in guidance from the UKVI/Home Office.
Q6 - I am an EEA national intending to apply to be a British citizen. Do I have to give up my original nationality?
From the UK’s perspective, no.
The UK permits a British citizen to have more than one nationality but you will have to check with your own country whether it will permit you to have more than one nationality.