Since this article was published, the UK has introduced a new requirement on EEA nationals in the UK. To retain existing rights after Brexit, EU citizens must register under the EU settlement scheme before the UK leaves the European Union. You can apply to become a British citizen after 12 months with settled status. Contact us for advice on your circumstances.
Before EU nationals can become eligible to apply for British citizenship, they must first apply for documentary evidence of their UK permanent residence status, using Form EEA PR. The process of applying for a permanent residence document can be demanding on applicants, requiring strict eligibility criteria to be met and extensive supporting documentation to be submitted.
What is EEA PR?
EEA PR is the form you will need to complete and submit to UKVI in order to apply for a permanent residence card.
Permanent residence is automatically acquired where an individual has exercised their Treaty Rights in the UK for 5 continuous years. Applying for a UK permanent residence card will act as evidence that you have attained this status.
EEA citizens wishing to apply for British Citizenship must first hold EEA Permanent Residence for a minimum of 12 months (unless married to a British national). Documentary evidence of PR status can be sought by completing form EEA PR.
Naturalisation applications made by EEA nationals without a permanent residence document will be refused, and the application fee lost.
The permanent residence card also serves as evidence of an employee’s right to work, which their employer can rely on as an accepted document if challenged by the Home Office.
What will I need to show to apply for a Permanent Residence document?
To apply, you will need to complete the EEA PR application form, and collate and submit supporting documents. In addition, you will also have to provide biometric information.
The burden is on you as the applicant to ensure you meet the eligibility criteria and satisfy all requirements before you make your application. For example, in the 12-month period prior to your application, you should aim to not be outside the UK for more than 90 days, and no more than 180 days in any prior consecutive 12-month period, with limited exceptions.
Taking professional advice will help ensure you are eligible and submitting the correct information to avoid issues with delays or refusals, and loss of the application fee.
What does the Home Office mean by ‘exercising Treaty Rights’?
In brief, you must demonstrate that you hold either an EEA Passport or ID Card and evidence you have undertaken one or more of the activities listed below during the 5-year qualifying period:
- job-seeker (must be registered with the job centre)
- self-employed person
- self-sufficient person (must have comprehensive sickness insurance)
- student (must have comprehensive sickness insurance)
It is permitted for you to have been in one or a number of the above categories over the five year period. For example, you may have originally relocated to the UK to study and thereafter spent a period of time as a job seeker before securing a job or setting up your own business.
There are also a number of additional ways to qualify for permanent residence. For example, if you are:
- A family member or extended family member of an EEA national qualified person or permanent resident, and have lived with your EEA family member in the UK for a continuous period of at least 5 years; or
- A former family member of an EEA national and you have retained your right of residence after the EEA national died or left the UK; or
- Your / marriage or civil partnership ended in divorce, annulment or dissolution; or
- A family member of a British citizen who worked or was self-employed in another EEA state before returning to the UK (‘Surinder Singh’ cases);
- An EEA national former worker or self-employed person who has ceased activity in the UK because you have retired, are permanently incapacitated, or you’re now working or self-employed in another EEA state but still retain your residence in the UK; or
- The family member or extended family member of an EEA national who has ceased activity, or
- The family member or extended family member of an EEA national former worker or self-employed person who has died.
In these cases, we can advise on the evidence requirements to support you application.
What if you have been absent from the UK during the qualifying period?
There are no strict guidelines on absences for EEA PR applications, but you must demonstrate that you are ordinarily resident in the UK. This means if you do have excessive absences – more than 6 months a year – UKVI could question whether you are ordinarily resident in the UK.
When calculating your absences from the UK, the Home Office does not count days spent travelling to or from the UK as a day of absence, except for overnight trips which are counted as one day.
I am an EEA national married to a British citizen. When can I apply to naturalise?
While EEA applicants are required to wait 12 months from the date PR is granted before applying for naturalisation, EU spouses of British citizens are in fact exempt from the 12 month period.
I have been resident for more than 5 years, do I need to show anything from this time?
It is beneficial to submit the additional documentation covering all the years you have been in the UK beyond the 5 year qualifying period.
Can I use the online version of the EEA PR form?
You can apply using the online form unless you fall into one of the following categories:
- family members of a qualifying EEA national not applying at the same time as the EE national
- students or self-sufficient people who are financially responsible for any other family members or are reliant on a family member for financial support
- people applying on the basis of retained rights
- people applying under the Surinder Singh category
Under these classifications, the application must be made using the paper form.
Do I have to declare criminal convictions in my EEA PR application form?
For your application to be successful, you will have to meet the ‘Good Character’ requirement.
It is essential that you fully detail any matters how minor or when the act was committed in your application.
UKVI carries out criminal and civil record checks for every application. Every criminal offence will be considered as part of this, no matter how minor, when the act was committed or whether the offences were committed in the UK or abroad.
Offences such as theft, drink driving, using a mobile phone while driving and being disqualified from driving are classed as criminal convictions.
You may also be prevented from applying if you have any financial issues such as being bankrupt or not having paid your council tax.
Do I have to sit the Life in the UK Test?
You won’t have to pass the English language test or the Life in the UK test for a PR application.
If you wish to apply for naturalisation once your PR is approved, you may wish to take the test now and include the evidence in your application.
Unless you are a national of a majority English speaking country, you must prove that you have passed English at B1 CEFR or higher test, or hold an equivalent level qualification e.g. a Degree taught in English.
Can I send photocopies for supporting documents?
All documents must be in original format except where indicated and as applicable translated into English.
Collating the documents usually takes longer than applicants expect. If you do not receive paper bills, such as bank statements or utility bills, you will need to request the originals from the issuing body. Institutions such as your bank or gas provider may take a while to send these out to you and so it is best that you contact them as soon as possible.
You will also need to send either your original passport or ID card.
If you need to travel whilst your application is being processed and you do not have an ID card, you must send your passport to the Home Office and request for it to be returned.
How much is the EEA PR application fee?
The current Home Office fee is £65 per applicant.
Complete the payment section on the form, and if you are paying by credit/debit card, remember to sign and date the form. If paying by cheque write your name and date of birth on the reverse.
When can I apply for British citizenship?
Once your PR application has been approved, you may wish to apply for naturalisation to become a British citizen.
What happens if my application is refused?
If your application for permanent residence has been refused, you will be given the option to appeal, or you may make a new application.
Your next step will depend on your particular circumstances, and you would be advised to seek professional advice on which course of action is most appropriate for you.
How long will it take for a decision to be made?
At the present time, most EEA PR applications are processed within 6 months.
The Home Office will review your documents and visa status and once satisfied that the EEA Regulations are met in full, your application will be approved. Once your application has been approved, you will be issued with a document certifying permanent residence.
PR to settled status
If you already hold permanent residence, you can apply to transfer your status under the EU settlement scheme at no charge.
How we can help
DavidsonMorris specialises in guiding and supporting EEA nationals in their applications for permanent residence and naturalisation.
We can advise on all aspects of the Home Office process, including eligibility and the documents you will need to collate and submit with your EEA PR form. We can also advise if your permanent residence application has been refused.
Contact us if you are seeking legal help in relation to your EEA PR application form. Our legal team will provide you with a professional, friendly, reliable service to avoid any issues or delays with your application.