The UK Prime Minister Theresa May has so far not changed her mind in regards to the plans of triggering Article 50 before the end of March 2017. If this is indeed what will happen, the UK can be expected to not be a Member of the European Union by the start of April 2019. It has been made clear that the UK is aiming for a “deal or no deal” approach. It may also seem like the UK will be heading towards a hard Brexit rather than a soft one. If the prior scenario will come to be a reality and end the Free Movement for European Citizens, here is some advice about how you can approach the upcoming future.
How can I secure my right of residence in the UK?
At the moment, European citizens who are living in the UK are not required to apply for an official document confirming their current status. However, due to the uncertainty about how the British government will approach Article 50 and leaving the European Union, it would be about time to apply to the Home Office to receive a documentation, just in case you might need to prove your status in the future.
For those who have lived in the UK for a period less than 5 years and you are employed, self-employed, student or self-sufficient, you and your European family members can apply for a Qualified Person Certificate.
If you have managed to completed a continuous period of 5 years in the UK as someone who is employed, self-employed, student or self-sufficient you may be able to apply for EEA Permanent Residence documentation. There are various rules on how long a person can leave the UK to still be eligible for this document ant it will vary person to person.
These documents do not bestow you any rights however, they act as evidence that you are recognised as a permanent resident under European law.
Why should I get this document?
The current British government has mentioned that it “expect” to allow Europeans already residing in the UK to safely stay after Brexit, only if the European Union does the same for British citizens living in those Member States.
The issue is that it will be a problem for immigration officers, employers and others to see the difference between those European citizens who already are living in the UK for a long time and those who have just arrived.
In other words, no one wants to carry several years’ worth of tax documents, bills and bank statements with them, to be allowed to travel in and out of UK during every single overseas trip. If you obtain the document from the Home Office, it will make your own life much easier.
How can I apply?
The Permanent Residence form consists of an 85-page form to fill in and must be accompanied by a lot of supporting documents that may seem daunting to some applicants. You must show evidence of what you have/are doing in the UK, evidence of your accommodation, and travel history of ALL your absences from the UK during the relevant period.
An online form has been made for certain type of applications but you still must print it out and send it with supporting documents. This whole process can take up to six months before a European will hear an answer about the decision regarding his application.
Should I just become British?
Whether any applicant decides to take up the British Citizenship it is completely their choice. However, since 2015, all Europeans and non-Europeans must obtain a document confirming their permanent residence before applying for British Citizenship.
How about my family?
Your family members (or non-European family members of Europeans) can apply for permanent residence as well and if they wish they can later on apply for British Citizenship.
Furthermore, if you have any children born in the UK, they may already be British Citizens. Children born in the UK on or after 30 April 2006 are automatically British IF at least of one of their parents is British or holds Indefinite leave to remain (ILR) or Permanent Residence (PR) before the child is born.
Wait and see what will happen
Some people are optimistic about what will happen in the UK during these 2 years. It is clear that the current system will not collapse for now. However, it should be noted that things will change even if the current system remains the same. It would be in your best interest to apply now rather than later and save yourself the headache from potential problems in the future.