Until now most EU Nationals living and working in the UK have done so relying on freedom of movement principles. With “hard Brexit” looking increasingly possible and no firm assurances being given on what rights EU Nationals living in the UK will have at Brexit, many are looking to protect their position if they can by applying for permanent residence in the UK now.

After the referendum in June, the Home Office reported a rise in the number of applications received from EU Nationals in the UK applying for permanent residence. This can be done after 5 years in the UK as a qualifying person and provided the relevant eligibility criteria are met. There was also an increase in applications for EEA registration cards – open to those EU Nationals who have been in the UK for less than 5 years.

With between 3 – 3.5 million EU Nationals living and/or working in the UK, it has been reported that it would take up to 140 years to process those applications with current Home Office resources…not ideal when the Home Office should actually process them within 6 months!

Those who have attempted to apply for permanent residence have found completion of the relevant application form daunting to say the least. At 85 pages it is not short and many find the questions confusing. There is also the issue for many of having to surrender their original passport or relevant identity document with the application – this obviously impacts on their ability to travel whilst the application is being processed.

In response to this, the Home Office trialled an new online service with a view to simplifying and speeding up the process for EEA Nationals. This service went live on 1 October. It does indeed appear a lot more straightforward. There is an added passport checking service that allows an applicant to have the identity documents relied upon in their application to be checked by a participating local authority checking service (Glasgow for Scotland) and returned to them rather than the Home Office holding them whilst the application is processed. The cost of the application remains at £65 per applicant. The checking service adds an extra £10 – £15 – we should add that the checking service does not guarantee success of the application.

You can access the online form here.