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Suggested steps for EEA citizens living in the UK post Brexit

21 July 2016

Despite the UK’s decision of 23 June 2016 to withdraw from the EU, there will be no immediate changes to freedom of movement rights of EEA nationals in the UK. This right will only cease when the UK leaves the EU.

Despite the UK’s decision of 23 June 2016 to withdraw from the EU, there will be no immediate changes to freedom of movement rights of EEA nationals in the UK. This right will only cease when the UK leaves the EU.

In order to leave the EU, the UK must follow the terms of Article 50 of the Treaty on the European Union (TEU) by formally notifying the European Council of its intention to leave the EU. This will trigger a 2-year period of negotiations, which may be extended by agreement. These negotiations will determine the arrangements for the UK’s exit and its future relationship with the EU.

Until then, the UK will continue to be a member of the EU. We set out below steps that EEA and Swiss nationals and their family members should consider taking now to protect their immigration status should negotiations lead to the requirement for EEA nationals to establish they have been residing in the UK in line with the EEA Regulations.

All EEA or Swiss nationals will benefit from gathering documents to demonstrate they are exercising Treaty rights in the UK (being a worker, job seeker, self-employed, self-sufficient, or a student), as well as by keeping a schedule of travel absences from the UK.

Apply for a Registration Certificate or a Residence Card

EEA or Swiss nationals (and their family members) who have been in the UK for more than 3 months but less than 5 years should apply for documentation confirming their residence in the UK under the current EEA regulations. For EEA nationals this means applying for a Registration Certificate, for their non-EEA family members it means apply for a Residence Card.

Please note it will be important to register as unemployed to be classified as a job seeker and comprehensive sickness insurance (private health care or European Health Insurance Card) is required to be classified as a student or self-sufficient.

Apply for a Permanent Residence Card

After 5 years of exercising Treaty rights in the UK, an EEA national and their family members may acquire Permanent Residence. We strongly advise anyone eligible for this to apply as soon as possible to protect their position.

Evidence of absences must be provided, hence we suggest EEA nationals and their family members keep a schedule of their absences, as it is difficult to reproduce accurately at a later date.


British citizenship

For those who have had Permanent Residence for at least 1 year, they may apply for British citizenship. Please bear the following in mind:
  • the residence requirements are more restrictive regarding absences for British citizenship than they are for Permanent Residence;
  • while the UK permits dual citizenship, not all other countries do;
  • there may be tax implications;
  • they should wait until any qualifying non-EEA family members have Permanent Residence, before becoming British, otherwise, under the current EEA Regulations, such family members would lose their right to remain.

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