An EEA residence card proves your enduring right to reside in the UK.

When the UK formally departs from the EU, the continuing rights of EEA nationals residing in the UK are, at this stage, unclear.

Many EEA citizens are making permanent residence applications now in anticipation that this proof of permanent residence will be recognised post-Brexit.

What is Permanent Residence?

When EEA nationals move to another European Member State for work, study, self-employment or self-sufficiency they attain the right to residence in that country and are entitled to all of the benefits afforded to residents of that Member State.

In the UK, EEA nationals and their family members, who engage in qualifying activities for a continuous period of five years, will automatically qualify for permanent residence.

Permanent residency grants a person the right to reside in that Member state, even when they are no longer participating in a qualifying activity.

Following the Brexit vote and the UK’s decision to leave the EU, many EEA nationals are making UK permanent residence applications now to preserve their future rights.

Why do I need an EEA residence card?

The right of permanent residence automatically arises when an EEA national meets the qualifying criteria.

EEA nationals can, however, make an application to the Home Office for a permanent residence card to obtain proof of their status.

From 12 November 2015, any EEA citizens intending to make an application for British Citizenship must first obtain a permanent resident card as proof of their permanent residence.

Who is eligible for a permanent residence card?

All EEA nationals, and their family members, who have resided in the UK for a continuous period of five years or more, while being engaged in:

  • work;
  • self employment;
  • self sufficiency or
  • study

qualify for permanent residence.

These different qualifying activities can be combined together to establish five continuous years of exercising Treaty Rights.

Leaving the UK, or ceasing to engage in a qualifying activity for a period of less than six months, will not typically extinguish a Treaty Right.

Workers who are unemployed but are actively seeking work may, in certain circumstance, also be considered to be continuing to engage in a qualifying activity during this period.

In limited cases, under Article 17 of the Citizens’ Directive, workers or self employed persons may be eligible for permanent residence before five years, where they have stopped work because of retirement, incapacitation, or where they have taken work in another Member State, while continuing to reside in the UK.

There are also some situations where an EEA member can exercise ‘Surinder Singh’ Treaty Rights in the UK while residing in their home country.

Can permanent residence be lost?

Permanent residence is not as enduring as the name suggests.

Any EEA national who spends longer than two years outside of the UK or is deported from Britain may lose their permanent residence status.

What evidence do I need to apply?

Applications for EEA residence cards are made to the UK Home Office.

The evidence that is required will vary depending on which qualifying activities the applicant has been engaged in.

P45s, contracts of employment and payslips may, for example, be used as evidence of working within the UK.

Holding a residence certificate for five years will, by itself, be insufficient to qualify. A person must prove that they were actually engaged in a qualifying activity for five continuous years.

How we can help you

Applications for permanent residence cards can be complex and overwhelming for those that are not familiar with the process.

The Home Office suggests that applicants complete an 85-page form to obtain a card, though this is technically not a legal requirement.

At DavidsonMorris we have the experience to make the EEA permanent residence card application process as straightforward as possible, while giving you the best possible chance of success.


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 500and 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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