EEA nationals in the UK: what next?

This week the Government released a summary of how it intends to deal with the residence rights of EEA nationals living in the UK after Brexit:

The United Kingdom’s exit from the European Union: safeguarding the position of EU citizens living in the UK and UK nationals living in the EU

You can also find out “what you need to know” on the Home Office website:

Status of EU citizens in the UK: what you need to know

The Government’s proposal is basically that in the future, European nationals and their families living in the UK will need to apply for residence documentation. This will be different from the documentation that is produced under the current regulations, which are based on the European Free Movement Directive. It is also different because it will be compulsory: at the moment EEA nationals and their family members do not have to apply for any kind of residence documents. The proposed requirements will depend on when you arrived in the UK, and how long you have lived here.

The policy paper prompts a lot of questions, and this post is by no means comprehensive. However, the following issues may be of interest:

  1. There is no need for EU citizens living in the UK to do anything now
  2. A “streamlined” process?
  3. “In the UK lawfully”

“There is no need for EU citizens living in the UK to do anything now”

All communications from the Government (the policy paper; the webpage; Home Office email updates) stress that you do not need to do anything now. If anything, the Government seems to want to discourage you from applying for confirmation of residence rights under the current law.

The Government’s proposal also confirms that EU nationals will still have to apply for new residence documents in the future, even if they already hold a Registration Certificate or Document Certifying a Right of Permanent Residence.

However, there may be good reasons for applying for documentation that you are entitled to under the current law. For example, evidence of permanent residence is required if you want to apply for naturalisation as a British Citizen. The current application process also provides a date when it is accepted that the applicant acquired PR, also useful for citizenship applications.

The Government’s “offer” also refers in some places to people who are “lawfully” in the UK. Obtaining certification now could be useful evidence of your status in the future.

A “streamlined” process?

The Government says that any future process for providing residence documents to EU nationals in the UK will be “streamlined” and “user-friendly”. The word “digital” has been bandied about.

It is already possible to complete your PR application form online, if you are an EEA national. This does away with a lot of the trouble associated with the cumbersome 85-page EEA(PR) paper form.

However, a lot of the problems with the paper form derive from the Government’s historically restrictive approach to the Free Movement Directive. Applicants are asked for irrelevant or repetitive information, and the intention appears to be to catch out people who haven’t spent the last 6 months immersing themselves in the Immigration (European Economic Area) Regulations 2016 and its previous versions and amendments.

Even assuming that the process can be made simpler, is it likely that the Government will streamline its approach to free movement, as Brexit approaches?

“In the UK lawfully”

This phrase also crops up in the Government’s policy documents. It can be difficult to know if you are “in the UK lawfully”, and to prove it.

There could be many reasons why a person with residence rights in the UK under EU law finds it difficult to prove that they are in the UK lawfully. One particular reason for this is that there has been no requirement to obtain residence documentation until now.

Cases where you might find it hard to show you are here “lawfully” might include:

  • You acquired PR some time ago but have subsequently lost your job
  • You are working part-time on relatively low wages
  • You worked outside the home in the past, but now act as the main carer for children (whether or not your partner works to support you financially)

Proving that you are in the UK lawfully is another reason why the Government’s statement that “you do not need to do anything now” is disingenuous.

If you would like advice about your status and options in the UK, you can call me or contact me through the website.


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