We are currently receiving lots of queries from EEA nationals asking about the need to apply for residence documents, and in particular documents certifying permanent residence.

Permanent residence is an automatic right, but it does not automatically provide the EEA national with a physical document. For this document, you need to apply to the Home Office for:

  • Registration card or certificate – if you have lived in the UK for less than five years
  • Permanent residence document – if you have lived in the UK for five years or more

Yes, the application is 85 pages long, but in reality only a few sections are applicable to each applicant.

Do I need to apply?

It is not mandatory for an EEA national to hold documentation certifying residence or permanent residence in the UK, but we think that anyone who is planning to remain in the UK should apply.

It makes sense to obtain a document which confirms your residence or settled status. Holders of these documents will avoid questioning by immigration control upon returning to the UK after travelling, and avoid delays when seeking employment. And if this doesn’t convince you, the fact that the application fee is still only £65 might.

One of the most important reasons to apply for this document is the potential end of free movement rights and likelihood that the Home Office will introduce a policy under which EEA nationals will be required to apply for identification documenting their right to remain in the UK.

It is expected that once the UK replaces the European Regulations (which currently govern applications for EEA registration certificates and cards), the Home Office will impose higher application fees. And, at the moment, one of the cheapest applications for leave to remain under the Immigration Rules (rather than EEA Regulations) is £811.

Online applications

Applications, either as a qualified person or for settlement, can now be submitted online. The online applications seem to be less complicated as these tend to ask the questions that are relevant to the applicant.

Perhaps the best feature of the online application is that it does not require a list of all of the applicant’s absences from the UK in the past five years. It is important to know whether you are eligible to apply online as there are some exceptions to eligibility.

European passport return service

Understandably, there are severe delays in processing EEA applications and applications can remain pending with the Home Office for several months. Some applicants have the option to submit their passport or national identity card.

But for those who only have their passport or whose country does not issue national identity cards, submitting your application would mean staying in the UK without the ability to travel abroad. For these applicants, there is now an option to submit an application online (subject to eligibility criteria) and use the European passport return service. As part of this service, a participating local authority can check the applicant’s passport and hand it straight back which means that you can keep your passport and travel abroad whilst the Home Office decides the application.

Comprehensive Sickness Insurance

This is one of the hottest topics amongst applicants. Some EEA nationals have delayed their application because they have never held Comprehensive Sickness Insurance (CSI).

Only applicants relying on a period of study or self-sufficiency in the UK as part of their five year qualifying period must have held CSI during the claimed period. CSI is a requirement in these two categories and proof must be submitted with the application.

Lack of evidence or not having held CSI does not mean that an EEA national has to leave the UK, but it might mean that your application for a permanent residence document will not get approved. If you are still a student or self-sufficient but don’t have CSI when you apply, you are advised to obtain one and apply for a registration card or certificate instead.