EEA Permanent Residence
If you are a national of a country that falls within the European Economic Area (EEA) or a national of Switzerland, you automatically have the right to live, work and study in the UK. As such, you don’t need to make an application for permission to enter or remain in the UK under the five-tier points-based system or otherwise, but there may be some situations where you need to prove your right to live and work in the UK. In these instances, an EEA Registration Certificate acts as the proof you need if you’re ever required to evidence your legal status as a resident.
Whilst an EEA Registration Certificate is not currently a legal requirement for European citizens living in the UK, having a certificate does confirm your rights and could assist you with a number of things including gaining access to services that are exclusive to UK residents. Having an EEA Registration Certificate also comes in useful if you’re looking to bring your family members with you to live in the UK, as it can be used in support of family members’ applications for EEA Family Permits, as well as EEA Residence Cards. Whilst not a requirement for eligibility, EEA Registration Certificate holders may experience a smoother and more straightforward application process when applying for EEA Permanent Residence Cards should they wish to do so in the future.
After five years, you will automatically qualify for EEA PR (permanent residence). When deciding if you should apply for an EEA Registration Certificate or EEA Permanent Residence, this will depend on how long you have been living in the UK.
EEA REGISTRATION CERTIFICATES – even with free movement, as an EEA national there are certain circumstances where you might want to apply for an EEA Registration Certificate to confirm your rights of residence under European law.
In order to remain in the UK, the EEA national must have exercised their treaty rights through employment, self-employment, self-sufficiency or study.
Whilst most EEA-based applications do not carry a fee they can still be complex and here at IAS we can advise as to whether you or a family member is eligible and help to prepare an application on your behalf.
To successfully apply for an EEA Registration Certificate, you must meet the following criteria:
- You must be a citizen of one of the EEA member states (see below if you’re unsure).
- You must be working, actively seeking employment, studying or be able to financially support yourself and have required levels of sickness cover. The status of ‘working’ covers both those who are in employment, as well as those who are self-employed.
Am I an EEA Citizen?
The EEA comprises the following countries and if you are a national of one of these then you are classed as an EEA citizen: Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, Croatia, Cyprus, the Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Iceland, the Republic of Ireland, Italy, Latvia, Liechtenstein, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, the Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden and the UK. Although Iceland, Liechtenstein and Norway are not members of the European Union (EU), their citizens have the same rights as EU citizens to enter, live and work in the UK. Further, Switzerland is not a member of the EEA but its nationals also have the same rights as EEA nationals.
Bulgarians and Romanians have also acquired the same rights to work in the UK as other EU citizens. Whilst they gained the right to visa-free travel to the UK in 2007 when their countries joined the EU, there were temporary restrictions on the kind of jobs they could take. These have now been removed and Bulgarian and Romanian citizens are able to enjoy full rights of residence in the UK in exactly the same way as other EEA citizens.
How Long Does an EEA Registration Certificate Last?
Upon successful application, your EEA Registration Certificate will be issued to you and will take the form of either a standalone document or a passport endorsement which will look similar to those used for some visa types. A Registration Certificate lasts for 5 years. After this time, you may then go on to complete a Permanent Residence application for the UK if you meet the requirements for doing so. This is done by applying for a Document Certifying Permanent Residence, the process for which can be easier if you have previously applied for and successfully obtained your EEA Registration Certificate. You can read more about EEA Registration Certificates and Residence Cards here.
Will Brexit Impact My Application for an EEA Registration Certificate?
Although Article 50 of the Treaty on the European Union (TEU) has been triggered and negotiations have now begun for the UK to leave the EU, the rights of EEA citizens to Free Movement remain unaffected for the time being, although there is still much uncertainty around whether this will remain the case. It is extremely prudent for EEA nationals living in the UK to take steps towards securing their status in order to ensure their rights are protected, given that the terms of the UK leaving the EU are not yet known. Whilst it is highly probable that EEA nationals who have been in the UK for a period of 5 years or more and have gone on to obtain permanent residence will be able to continue enjoying the same rights once the UK leave, we have no indication as yet whether this will be the case for those who have resided in the UK for less than 5 years or those who have remained for longer than this period but not yet applied for residence. Whilst applying for proof of residence such as an EEA Registration Certificate has been considered unnecessary by many EEA nationals until now, it is strongly recommended that you obtain confirmation of your legal status if you think you may be impacted by any transitional arrangements agreed as part of the UK’s departure from the EU.
EEA PERMANENT RESIDENCE: When EEA nationals have been living in the UK for more than five years and exercising treaty rights, they may be eligible for a status known as EEA Permanent Residence. This is a status granted to EEA citizens under European law which allows them to live and work in the UK. It is different to Indefinite Leave to Remain, which is granted to citizens who are subject to UK immigration law.
Am I eligible For EEA PR?
If you have been living in the UK for more than five years, you may be eligible for EEA Permanent Residence. This would allow you to live and work in the UK after Brexit, regardless of the outcome of negotiations. In order to remain in the UK, the EEA national must have exercised their treaty rights through employment, self-employment, self-sufficiency or study. You must also satisfy one of the following conditions:
- An EEA national ‘qualified person’, either worker, self-employed, self-sufficient, student or job-seeker.
- A family member or extended family member of an EEA national qualified person or permanent resident.
- A former family member of an EEA national if you have retained your right of residence after an EEA national died, left the UK, or ended your marriage/civil partnership through a divorce, annulment or dissolution.
- A family member of a British citizen who worked, or was self-employed in another EEA state before returning to the UK.
In order to apply for EEA permanent residence, you must complete an 85-page application form and send the completed form along with your £65 fee to the Home Office. If you are a non-EEA national applying for EEA PR, you will need to supply your biometric information, including fingerprints and a digital photo before your application will be considered. If multiple members of your family are eligible for EEA PR, you may use the same application, but the fee will increase with each family member. You can read more about the EEA Permanent Residence application process here.
The Home Office is currently trialling an online application form. Unlike the paper form, the online application only asks questions that are relevant to you, which some people believe speeds up the process. The online form isn’t suitable for everyone, so you should check with the Home Office before starting your online application.
What documents do I need to apply for EEA PR?
The required documents will vary based on each application, but as a minimum, you should expect to provide the following:
- Two passport-sized photographs for you and each of your family members
- Proof of identity, such as a valid passport or travel document
- Proof of relationship to your sponsor, such as birth/adoption certificates, marriage/civil partnership certificates
- Previous permanent residence document (if applying for a renewal)
- Previous immigration documents such as EEA registration certificate
- Proof of residence in the UK, such as utility bills, council tax letters, NHS letters or mortgage/letting agreements
- Evidence of employment, such as wage slips or bank statements
This is not an exhaustive list, but an example of some of the documents required. Section 18 of the application form details all possible required documents.
According to EU law, all EEA PR applications have to be processed within 6 months. As there is currently a high demand for the service, processing times may be higher. Applicants are reporting waiting times between 2-3 months or between 7-8 months. You can read more about EEA Permanent Residence Processing times here