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EU Citizens Working In UK Should Act Now To Protect Their Residence Status

Options Include Applying For UK Citizenship, Permanent Residence Or Registration Certificate


Lawyers at Irwin Mitchell Private Wealth say EU citizens working in the UK should act now to protect their residence position following the referendum vote to leave the EU.

Expert Opinion
“Three months on from the Brexit vote, no formal negotiation has been initiated and it is still unclear what will happen to EU nationals in the UK after Brexit. The intention of Prime Minister Theresa May appears to be that the Article 50 notice will be given in early 2017. Unless a different period is agreed, the UK will then have two years from the date of notifying the European Council to negotiate its exit and the framework for its future relationship with the EU.

“Until it leaves the EU, the UK is still a member of the EU and citizens of member states have the right to enter, live and work in the UK on the basis of EU law. The British government has indicated that after Brexit they will be generous to EU migrants who are living in the UK already but also that only EU nationals who are in the UK before a certain date may apply for settlement in the UK. It appears that is to provide against a ‘surge’ of new EU migrants coming to the UK before its exit from the EU, so it is advisable for EU citizens working in the UK to take all steps possible now to safeguard their position.

“The best way EU citizens living and working in the UK can protect their status is to apply for permanent residence or a registration certificate showing that they are allowed in the UK. Those EU citizens with permanent residence should also consider naturalisation as a British citizen. This has several advantages over permanent residence as it cannot be withdrawn.”
Alex Ruffel, Partner

To protect their residence status, EU citizens working in the UK have several options:

  • If they have been resident in the UK for five years or more continuously, they should apply for a permanent residence card, which shows they have a right of permanent residence in the UK. The right is derived from EU law but it is unlikely that permanent resident status will be withdrawn from EU citizens who have acquired it. A permanent residence card will serve as evidence of status.
  • If they have been resident in the UK for less than five years, they should consider applying for a registration certificate showing they are exercising EU rights to be in the UK. In the event that the UK enacts transitional rules that allow EU citizens who are resident at the time of Brexit to remain in the UK, such a certificate may be useful in showing UK residence.
  • If EU citizens already have permanent residence, they may wish to apply for naturalisation as a British citizen. Citizenship has advantages over permanent residence as it cannot be withdrawn, whereas permanent residence may cease if the holder ceases to have a home in the UK.

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