On 3rd November, regulations were laid before Parliament concerning immigration applications by citizens of European Economic Area countries. Most of the provisions come into force on 1st February next year.
Since the referendum to leave the European Union of 23rd June, there has been discussion of the position of citizens of EEA countries living in the UK. Those who exercise a qualifying right to be in the UK, by working, studying, self-employment, self-sufficiency or job-seeking, may obtain confirmation of their status from UK Visas and Immigration. EEA citizens who have exercised such rights for five consecutive years may obtain a card to confirm they are now allowed to remain permanently in the UK. The Government estimates that 85% of the 3.2 million citizens of EEA countries who live in the UK have done so for at least five years and may therefore potentially qualify for the latter. Most, however, have not made an application for proof that they have acquired permanent residence status.
It is currently possible to make this application in any way the applicant chooses as long as the relevant information is enclosed and not use the EEA(PR) form created by the Home Office for this purpose. It is often preferable to applicants not to use the form as it is very long and requires information that is not necessary to establish permanent residency.
This freedom will change for all applications made from 1st February 2017; from this date only those who apply using the forms issued by UK Visas and Immigration can expect their requests to be processed.
Important changes are also announced within the regulations in respect of the right to appeal these decisions, the circumstances in which they may be refused and how applications for reunion of family members will be considered. Some of the provisions seem directly contrary to existing EU law and it remains to be seen how such rules may be implemented.
There have been calls to simplify the application process, since many people find the current process unnecessarily lengthy and confusing. UK Visas and Immigration has recently introduced an on-line application process which may address some of these concerns. It is to be hoped that the lengthy forms and list of documents required for the permanent residence application will also be reduced before these regulations take effect.