Proposed Immigration Bill has considerable implications for EEA nationals in the UK

Brexit dominated today’s Queen’s Speech. Among the areas cited for government focus was immigration, with new national policies to be introduced that will bring an end to free movement from the EU.

While specific details of a new immigration system are yet to be announced, they will centre on enabling control of immigration from Europe by making the status of EU nationals and family members subject to UK law.

What does the Immigration Bill mean for EEA nationals currently in the UK?

Under the free movement agreement, there has been no requirement on EU citizens to formalise their immigration status in the UK.

But under new immigration provisions, this will change.

If you are an EU citizen and have worked in the UK for more than 5 years as a qualifying person, you could be eligible to apply and secure your status as a permanent UK resident.

If you have been in the UK fewer than 4 years and are ineligible for permanent residence, we can advise on the options available to you based on your specific circumstances.

What is permanent residence?

Permanent residence proves your right to live in the UK for the rest of your life.

There are no restrictions attached to your leave in the UK and you are free to enter and exit the country as you wish – provided you are not out of the country for more than 2 years, at which point permanent residence is lost.

Applying for permanent residence is a complex process. The number of documents you need to submit tends to confuse and deter people from pursuing an application.

But permanent residence is at present the safest way for eligible EU migrants to secure their status in the UK in advance of any new system being introduced.

Permanent residence also gives peace of mind to UK employers of EEA nationals. Under the new system, an EU passport will no longer suffice to prove an employee’s right to live and work in the UK. A document proving you are free from immigration control and lawfully in the UK will help meet your employers’ immigration compliance duties and satisfy as evidence of your right to live and work in the UK.

As part of your EEA Permanent Residence application, you are able to include your spouse, civil partner, children and other relatives if they are currently in the UK with you and are dependent on you, or part of your household, even if they are a non-EEA national.

Note that EEA citizens wishing to apply for British Citizenship must first hold UK permanent residence.

An application for permanent residence costs £65.

British citizenship

British Citizenship offers the highest level of security for eligible applicants.

Applicants have to meet the same requirements regardless of their nationality, except that EEA nationals must first hold permanent residence before they can apply to naturalise:

  • You must have been in the UK for 6 or more years;
  • During your time in the UK, you must have been exercising Treaty Rights e.g. working, self-employed, or a student,for example;
  • You must meet the residence requirements which include an assessment of your absences from the UK and where you intend to live after making the application;
  • You will need to pass the Life in the UK Test;
  • You also need to pass an approved English Language Test – or have an approved degree from /be a national of a majority English speaking country;
  • You must meet the “Good Character” guidance, for example no recent or serious criminal convictions, you must not be bankrupt, or associated with those considered to have “bad character”

The Home Office fee is £1,236 to apply for British citizenship.

Once you’ve met all the requirements for Naturalisation and obtained your naturalisation certificate, you will then be able to make an application for a British passport.

What about UK citizens?

The UK passport is considered as the most powerful in the world allowing visa-free travel to 173 countries but without free movement, Britons will need to apply for a visa to enter France.

Just as the UK amends its immigration policy to remove free movement, EU member states are expected to mirror legislation. This would make UK nationals subject to immigration control when entering and travelling through Europe.

Future EU applications

The Government’s focus on attracting the “brightest and best” will see new immigration provisions impact low skilled EEA nationals’ eligibility to come and work in the UK. This mirrors the current Tier 2 visa scheme which is open only to skilled workers from outside Europe.

While we await details of the new Immigration Bill and the new system that will control EU migration, the most pressing questions remain around the status of EU nationals currently in the UK and those UK ex-pats in Europe.

While new applicants will be subject to the new system, EU nationals currently in the UK are seeking to secure their future now by applying for permanent residence or obtaining British citizenship where possible to continue living in the UK.