24th Jun 2016

Brexit and EU Nationals residing in the UK

After 43 years of membership, the UK has voted to leave the European Union.  We have consequently seen an increase in enquiries from EU Nationals regarding their status in the UK and future options.


Currently, all nationals of the EU, as well as Norway, Liechtenstein and Iceland (members of the wider European Economic Area) and Switzerland have free movement rights in the UK.  This means that they are entitled to enter and reside in the UK as long as they are exercising a EU Treaty right.  Treaty rights include employment (includes job seeking), self-employment, studying and self-sufficiency.  Non-EEA family members also have free movement rights whilst living in the UK with their qualified EEA family member.


There are no immediate legal consequences or direct effects of the immigration status of EU Nationals and their family members residing in the UK as a result of Brexit.  Future changes to the relevant laws are inevitable but the type, extent and timing of those changes will depend on the results of negotiations between the UK and the EU.  Negotiations are not set to take place until the Prime Minister activates Article 50 of the Treaty of the EU, which sets out the procedure to be followed when a member state decides to leave the EU.   This will oblige the EU to try to negotiate a ‘withdrawal agreement’ with the UK, a process that can take up to 2 years.  During this 2-year negotiation period, EU laws would still apply to the UK and EU business would continue to operate as normal.   Once the negotiations are complete, UK laws will change only when they have been through the entire Parliamentary process.


In the past, when there have been changes to UK immigration law, transitional measures have been put in place to protect the rights of migrants presently in the UK under the older systems.  However, it is not yet known whether the rights of EU citizens living in the UK will be protected by such transitional measures.


Under current EU law, there is no requirement for EU Nationals to obtain residence documents as proof of their status in a member state.  However, given the imminent changes to relevant law in the coming years, many EU Nationals will want to apply for residence documents as proof of their status in the UK.  Those who meet the requirements should consider applying for permanent residence or citizenship at the earliest opportunity.


Registration Certificate:

A Registration Certificate proves the right of an EEA national to live and work in the UK.  You will need to provide evidence that you are living in the UK and exercising a EU treaty Right.  Non-EEA Family members of qualified EEA nationals can also prove their right to live and work in the UK by applying for a UK Residence Card.


Permanent Residence:

After exercising a Treaty right in the UK for 5 years, an EEA National is eligible to apply for a document certifying permanent residence. Once you have permanent residence, there are no restrictions attached to your leave in the UK.   It’s mandatory to obtain a document certifying permanent residence prior to being able to apply for British Citizenship.



After you have held permanent residence for at least 12 months, you will be able to apply to naturalise as a British Citizen.  You must pass the Life in the UK Test and meet the English language requirement prior to applying.


If you have any queries regarding the above or would like assistance with your application, please contact IQA Immigration Specialists Ltd on 0131 344 4641 or info@iqaimmigration.com