What does the EU Referendum mean for EEA citizens in the UK?

On 23 June 2016 the UK votes on whether it will remain part of the European Union, or if it will leave. This is a huge decision for the country, which will have long-lasting consequences for everyone. But how will it affect you?

EEA citizens

If you are an EU citizen living in the UK you might be worried what will happen if the vote is to leave.

In reality if UK citizens vote to leave the EU the process of exiting will take a long time, most likely years. So whilst EU migrants will no longer be guaranteed a right to free movement in the UK, it is also unlikely immigration statuses will be decided in the immediate aftermath of a vote to leave.

With over 3 million EU citizens currently living in the UK, any changes made if the UK votes to leave will have to be carefully planned to account for those with families, those with jobs, who own property and who have lived here for a long time. Non-EEA citizens applying for settlement in the UK need to have lived here for five years, so even in a worst case analysis it would be reasonable to expect the same rules to apply to EU citizens.

However, if you are concerned about it, you can take certain steps to secure your residency now. Options include:

  • Apply for a registration certificate as an EU citizen – This costs £65 and proves your right to work and live in the UK. There are no residence requirements. There are also no guarantees registration will affect your status if the UK vote to leave. The certificate is intended to be used by EEA citizens who want to prove their right to work and live in the UK. There are related categories for family members of EEA nationals, including non-EEA family members (see below). The certificate can make it easier to prove your right to work in the UK and claim benefits.
  • Apply for permanent residence - If you have lived in the UK for five years as an EU citizen you can apply for permanent residence in the UK. This costs £65 and you need to complete the Application for a document certifying permanent residence or permanent residence card: form EEA (PR) and send it to the Home Office along with the fee and supporting documents
  • Become a British citizen” - The most drastic option is applying to become a British citizen. Whilst this will definitely secure your right to live in the UK it is a very expensive and time-consuming process. Application fees are currently £1,236 with extra costs for taking the Life in the UK test and demonstrating your English language skills. There are also specific requirements including a five-year residence period and limits on your time spent outside the UK. You would also need to check you are allowed to hold dual nationalities. Whilst this is a surefire route to securing your life in the UK it is very expensive. We advise waiting until the referendum before taking such drastic action!

Family members of EEA citizens

If you are a family member of an EEA citizen and are living in the UK there are relatively simple ways of declaring your right to residence. We do not know if holding these permits or residence cards will affect your status if the UK vote to leave.

  • Apply for a UK residence card - This costs £65 and can confirm your right to saty in the UK for up to five years. After 5 years you can apply for a permanent residence card. You can pply for this if you are a family member or ‘extended family member’ (such as a sibling, aunt, uncle, cousin or niece) of an EEA national
  • Apply for a derivative residence card - Applications for this must be made from inside the UK and it costs £65. This card helps prove you have the right to live and work in the UK if you are the primary carer of the primary carer of someone who has the right to live in the UK, the primary carer’s child or the child of a former European Economic Area (EEA) worker and you’re at school, college or university in the UK. You can continue living in the UK for as long as the person you’re caring for lives in the UK.

Here at www.lifeintheuk.net we recommend waiting to see what happens with the referendum before committing to anything as expensive as an application for citizenship. The above ways of confirming your residence are relatively affordable but there is also no guarantee that they will be accounted for if the UK leaves the EU. Ultimately, with so much uncertainty about the vote and what happens after, the best thing to do is wait.


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