The UK has voted to leave the EU. European Economic Area (EEA) and EU nationals will have to likely re-assess their visa options. Let’s take a closer look at what a Brexit means for you.
It’s the first time in the history of the European Union that full membership is being put to a popular vote. With the UK’s EU referendum now less than a week away, both the “leave” and “remain” sides’ campaigns are starting to heat up.
Since the UK opted out of the EU, it is quite possible that all EU migrants currently here may have to apply for a visa under the Immigration Rules, or under whatever new provisions the government puts in place to ease the transition out of the EU.
The “leave” campaign has almost wholly focussed on the issue of immigration. Because of this, non-UK citizens who have been living and working in the UK are worried about a potential Brexit. Currently 2.4 million EEA nationals work and live freely in the UK; right now, their future in the United Kingdom is an uncertain one.
If you are an EU Citizen living in the UK, now is the time to act to ensure that you have the best possible chance of staying in the UK after it has left the EU.
All EEA nationals and their non-EEA family members enjoy an initial 3 months right to residence in the UK. Following the three months only qualified persons and their family members have a right to reside in the UK. A qualified person is a person who is essentially economically active or self-sufficient thus they could be: Workers and jobseekers; Self-employed; Self-sufficient; Students; or Retired.
An application for Residence Permit will confirm that you have a right to live and work in the UK and employers may require this as proof of your entitlement to work in the UK. These application are normally considered and decided within 6 months from the date they are received by the Home Office.
As a European citizen, you are deemed to automatically acquire Permanent Residence after completing 5 lawful years in the UK under the European Regulations; the pre-requisite to applying for British Citizenship.
In the past there has been no real need for EU citizens to make an application for Permanent Residence but that could all change. So, what should you do now and what does the process of applying for British Citizenship entail?
If you have been living in the country for more than five years on a visa continuously, you should consider applying for Permanent Residence as soon as you can. PR is granted to those who qualify and, once you receive it, you need only spend twelve months in the UK from the date of issue to be eligible to apply to naturalise as a British citizen. Once you are naturalised, you may apply for a British passport.
This means that there are no restrictions attached to your leave in the UK and you are free to exit and enter as you wish, provided you are not out of the country for more than 2 years at which point Permanent Residence is lost.
Applications for Naturalisation are governed by the British Nationality Act 1981; as such, there are no separate rules for EU and non-EU citizens as regards applying to naturalise as a British citizen.
All applicants have to meet the same requirements regardless of their nationality. The Immigration Rules and European Regulations have no bearing on these applications.
If you are an EU citizen and have been living in the UK for 6 or more years you could be eligible to make an application to be naturalised and acquire British Citizenship.
Once you’ve met all the requirements for Naturalisation and obtained your naturalisation certificate, you will then be able to make an application for a British passport.
A lot of EEA nationals are now considering all possible routes to a UK visa. For those nationals that have a long-term British partner, a spouse visa is always an option. This option is not for everyone though and the criteria have been getting tougher and tougher to meet over the last few years. The status of this visa, given the vote to leave, will no doubt come in to question. Be sure to chat to an expert before applying for any visas in the UK.
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