First, don’t panic:
- There is no present requirement on anyone in the UK who is exercising Treaty rights (by which is meant:working, self-employed,studying, or self-sufficient) to leave the UK, including family members of those EU nationals
- Rights of EU nationals should not change, at least until the Article 50 process has commenced and until Article 50 is triggered, it would be impossible to remove rights that have accrued and been documented.
- Rights for EU citizens are established as a matter of law but the UK authorities (in common with other EU states) can document the existence of those rights, provided that an individual applies to the Home Office for an EEA residence document.
The foreseeable future:
- Although there has been much debate about the 2 year process of negotiation, the 2 years is a maximum period. It is possible that changes could be introduced prior to that date, as the exit could take place less than 2 years after the negotiations start.
- It is unknown whether the changes that may occur will only affect persons seeking to enter the UK after the exit date, or whether the changes may require existing residents to meet a requirement under the current domestic law; it is very likely that there will be transitional arrangements, but these are likely to be more favourably applied to persons who can show they are “documented” as opposed to those that cannot
- EU citizens cannot presently be removed from the UK if they are exercising Treaty rights unless their removal is justified on grounds of public health, public policy or public security. It is questionable as to whether EU nationals who are not exercising any such rights could be removed, but certainly after exit, it is likely that the powers to remove such individuals will increase.
What you might wish to consider now to protect any entitlement currently available:
- There are 3 types of applications that might be considered relevant at the present time: establishing evidence of current entitlement as a “qualifying person”, or establishing an entitlement as a person who should be given a permanent right of residence having exercised Treaty rights for a continuous period of at least 5 years.
- The entitlement of family members should also be documented to ensure that no uncertainty exists as to their status.
- The evidence required to establish the entitlement as a Qualifying Person or Permanent Resident will vary depending on whether a person is seeking to establish that their right has come about through employment, self-employment, study or self-sufficiency.
- If you already hold Permanent Residence, you may also be eligible to apply for naturalisation as a British citizen.
If you or any family members are EEA nationals currently living in the UK and wish to discuss your current status and whether an application needs to be made to the Home Office at this time, please call us on 0208 365 7800, or you can in the alternative email us on firstname.lastname@example.org.