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EU citizens: How to protect your right to live and work in the UK

By Jo Whittle
18 January 2018

Now that the UK is looking more likely to leave the EU on March 29, 2019, it is a good time for EU citizens who wish to stay in the UK to look into securing their future here, writes Richard Devall, partner, IBB solicitors.

This article sets out the three key steps to British citizenship which will ensure that EU individuals will not have to leave the country in a post-Brexit UK, and  provides a brief update on the latest developments in immigration-related Brexit talks. 

Step 1: Residence documents

EU nationals are entitled to apply for a registration certificate to prove that they are currently qualfiied to work and study in the UK. The application is made online and costs £65. Applications can also include close or extended family members.

While technically not necessary, this step provides security of the right to remain, and so obtaining a registration certificate could prove useful for any future applications – in particular for permanent residence.  Given the continued uncertainty surrounding Brexit, our view is to err on the side of caution and obtain one.

Step 2: Right to permanent residence

EU citizens who have been residing in the UK for a period of five years and are (a) working, (b) students, or (c) self-sufficient, are considered to have acquired permanent resident status. There are some exceptions to this five-year rule; namely, if one is permanently incapacitated or has reached state pension age. Rights to permanent residence expire if an individual is absent from the UK for a period of two years.

As matters stand, permanent resident status is a virtual one and does not require a physical document to be obtained. However, in view of our forthcoming exit from the EU, a document certifying permanent residence is crucial proof of the right to remain in the UK without limit or restrictions. Once acquired, it is highly unlikely that the Government would withdraw such rights post-Brexit.

It is therefore recommended that anyone who satisfies the above conditions makes this application – it costs £65 and can be made online. 

Step 3: British citizenship

One must use their permanent residency document to apply for British citizenship after having lived in the UK for six years. Generally, this means an application can be made 12 months after receiving permanent residence status. The application can also include any non-EU family members.

Helpfully, an application for British citizenship can be made without a right to permanent residence if the applicant is married to or the civil partner of a British citizen. 

Otherwise, and overall, we suggest that each of these steps is followed to protect your position.

Brexit Update – Government outlines its latest proposals

The Government has produced a document setting out its proposals to deal with the rights of citizens in the UK. 

It proposes to create a simpler system for EU nationals to obtain ‘settled status’ when they were in the UK at an “as yet unspecified date”. On December 12, the Home Office minister stated that there would be a presumption in favour of approving right-to-stay applications and that applications would take only minutes.

As with permanent residency, a five-year period of continuous residence will be used as the basis of a successful application and permanent residency documents can be transferred directly to settled status.

EU citizens can also apply under this system before Brexit to ease the transition. Otherwise, applications will be considered for two years afterwards.  An application will not be successful if the EU national has received a prison sentence of 12 months or more or is considered a threat to public security.

The above said, there is still disagreement as to the future role of the European Court, and so these proposals are not yet approved.

At IBB, we take pride in understanding our clients’ needs. If you would like impartial advice, we are here to help.

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