It might be small comfort after last week’s referendum vote, but EU nationals living in the UK have the same legal rights as they did before the result was announced.
I am trying to avoid attempting to predict the future: it seems futile at a time when there is nothing like a plan or manifesto for leaving the EU.
However, I wouldn’t be an immigration lawyer if I hadn’t thought about some of the options available to Europeans and their family members who are cautious about their future rights to live and work in the UK. Unfortunately, most of the options involve handing money to the Home Office, and/or a lawyer.
- Consider whether you want to naturalise as British, or if you might already be British and eligible for a passport.
- If you have acquired a right of permanent residence (PR) after exercising treaty rights (working lawfully, studying or self-sufficient) for 5 continuous years, apply for certification of that right. It costs £65, which is cheap by Home Office standards. You can rely on any 5-year period in the UK, as long as it ended after 30 April 2006.
- If you came to the UK many years ago, check whether you were granted indefinite leave to remain under the rules that applied before PR was invented. You might have to look through your old passports for an ink stamp. You could also apply to the Home Office for a copy of your immigration file, using data protection laws.
- If you know that you have not acquired PR, you can still apply for a registration certificate. Historically, most people have not applied for this document because an EEA passport has been all you needed to prove your right to work. However, if a future government decides to institute transitional rules for EU nationals living in the UK, it might help to be able to prove you were living in the UK exercising treaty rights, and recognised as such.
- If you are not working because you have had children and taken time off to care for them, consider getting private health insurance so that you can count your current residence as “self sufficiency”.
- Where spouses have separated amicably but not divorced, take advice about whether the rights of a non-EEA ex-spouse might be better protected by starting divorce proceedings. This is an option that needs careful consideration, but many third-country family members can only retain a right of residence once they are actually divorced.
- Co-operate as far as possible to make sure that children have any national passport or ID they might be entitled to, or to register children as British where this is an option.
If you would like to discuss any of these options further please do not hesitate to contact me.