EEA National & Your UK Immigration Rights?


This article was published before the introduction of the EU settlement scheme. If you are concerned about your rights as an EU citizen in the UK, speak to our immigration specialists.

In accordance with the Immigration (European Economic Area) Regulations 2006, if you are an EEA national, you benefit from a number of automatic rights when immigrating to and residing in the UK.

Rights of Entry and Residence

EEA nationals are generally permitted to enter the UK as long as they hold a valid passport or a national identity card.

The exception is where an EEA national is subject to an extant deportation order. Entry to the UK will not be permitted until the deportation order has been revoked.

An EEA national with a valid passport or national identity card may live in the UK initially for 3 months.

Extended Right of Residence

EEA nationals also have the right to extend their stay beyond those 3 months, as long as they exercise one of the following Treaty right categories:

  • Worker

An EEA national who claims to be a worker in the UK must provide supporting evidence such as an employment contract or a payslip. Should their employment come to an end, they may still qualify as a worker if:

  • illness or injury prevents them from working, on a temporary basis
  • after having been employed in the UK, they were involuntarily made unemployed, are registered as a jobseeker, and were either employed for 1 year or more before unemployment, have been unemployed for 6 months or less, or can prove that they are looking for work in the UK and are likely to find work
  • they started vocational training after being made unemployed involuntarily or they left their work voluntarily to take up vocational training which is relevant to their previous employment
  • Jobseeker

If an EEA national is actively seeking employment in the UK, they may extend their period of residence as long as they can prove that they are looking for work and are likely to gain employment. Evidence can be provided in the form of qualification certificates, job interview letters, and Job Centre/recruitment agency communications.

  • Self-employed person

Any self-employed EEA national must provide evidence of their self-employment in the UK, for instance, an accountant’s letter, tax return or business accounts.

  • Student

For an EEA national to be recognised as a student, they must provide evidence that they have a place on an educational course at an establishment that is registered on the DFES Register of Education and Training Providers. Such evidence could be in the form of a letter from their educational establishment, for instance, but details such as the course title and description, course venue and duration of the course must be supplied.

  • Self-sufficient person

If an EEA national can prove that they have sufficient funds to support their lifestyle, and that of any family member, while in the UK, so that they are not reliant on the UK government in the form of benefits or similar, they may qualify under the Treaty right of Self-sufficient person.




If you are the close relative of an EEA national, you may be eligible to extend your period of residence in the UK. In this context, close family members are spouses or civil partners, children, grandchildren under 21 years of age, and dependent parents or grandparents.

Permanent Right of Residence

Once a qualifying EEA national (one who exercises a Treaty right as stated in the above section) has lived in the UK continuously for 5 years, they are generally allowed to apply for permanent residence in the UK.

Proof will be required that you qualify under one of the Treaty categories and that you have lived in the UK for 5 years.

This right of permanent residence may, however, be withdrawn at any time on the basis of public security, public health or public policy.

British Citizenship

You may apply for British citizenship where you meet the following eligibility requirements:

  • at least 18 years old
  • of good character (no serious or recent criminal record, for instance)
  • intend to remain in the UK
  • have met the knowledge of English and life in the UK requirements
  • you were in the UK at the start of the 5-year period that ends on the date of your application
  • you were not away from the UK for either more than 450 days in the 5-year period, or 90 days in the 12 months ending on the date of your application
  • when you make your application, you are not subject under immigration laws to any kind of restriction on the time period you may stay in the UK
  • during the 12 months ending on the date of your application, you were not subject under immigration laws to any kind of restriction on the time period you may stay in the UK
  • during the 5 years ending on the date of your application, you were not subject under immigration laws to any kind of restriction on the time period you may stay in the UK
  • have lived in the UK for a minimum of 5 years before your application
  • hold permanent residence status with a permanent residence card issued for at least 12 months before your citizenship application
  • not violated any immigration laws while in the UK

These requirements will vary should your spouse or civil partner be a British citizen. For example, you will not have to wait 12 months following your permanent residency being attained, you can apply straight away.

What will change for EEA nationals post-Brexit?

At the present time, proposals suggest that EEA nationals will be required to apply for settled status in order to remain in the UK. The term ‘permanent residence’ is expected to be phased out post-Brexit. The government has assured those holding permanent residence will face a ‘light touch’ applicaiotn process to transfer to settled status, which is also expected to come at no cost.

Under this proposed new status:

  • EEA nationals who have been continuously and legally living in the UK for 5 years by 31 December 2020, will be allowed to remain in the UK indefinitely by applying for settled status.
  • EEA nationals who come to the UK before 31 December 2020 but have not been living in the UK for 5 years when the UK leaves the EU, may apply to stay in the country until they complete the 5-year period. After that, they may apply for settled status.
  • Family members who live with a qualifying EEA national or travel to the UK to be with them by 31 December 2020 may apply for settled status after having lived in the UK for 5 years.
  • Close family members may travel to the UK to join qualifying EEA nationals as long as the relationship existed on 31 December 2020.

Any qualifying EEA national who has settled status or permission to stay in the UK on a temporary basis will continue to have access to healthcare and other benefits in the same way that they did before the UK left the EU.

DavidsonMorris can help with your UK immigration rights

The journey towards the UK’s exit from the EU has only added to the complexities of an already complicated area of law.

Taking specialist legal advice will ensure you get the right immigration advice and are prepared for any changes that Brexit may bring.

If you are concerned about your current or future status in the UK, contact us for advice.


Founder and Managing Director Anne Morris is a fully qualified solicitor and trusted adviser to large corporates through to SMEs, providing strategic immigration and global mobility advice to support employers with UK operations to meet their workforce needs through corporate immigration.

She is a recognised by Legal 500 and Chambers as a legal expert and delivers Board-level advice on business migration and compliance risk management as well as overseeing the firm’s development of new client propositions and delivery of cost and time efficient processing of applications.

Anne is an active public speaker, immigration commentator, and immigration policy contributor and regularly hosts training sessions for employers and HR professionals

About DavidsonMorris

As employer solutions lawyers, DavidsonMorris offers a complete and cost-effective capability to meet employers’ needs across UK immigration and employment law, HR and global mobility.

Led by Anne Morris, one of the UK’s preeminent immigration lawyers, and with rankings in The Legal 500 and Chambers & Partners, we’re a multi-disciplinary team helping organisations to meet their people objectives, while reducing legal risk and nurturing workforce relations.

Legal Disclaimer

The matters contained in this article are intended to be for general information purposes only. This article does not constitute legal advice, nor is it a complete or authoritative statement of the law, and should not be treated as such. Whilst every effort is made to ensure that the information is correct at the time of writing, no warranty, express or implied, is given as to its accuracy and no liability is accepted for any error or omission. Before acting on any of the information contained herein, expert legal advice should be sought.

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