EU citizens may be eligible to apply for permanent residence where they can show they have been exercising their Treaty Rights for five continuous years in the UK.
While EU nationals are now required to register under the EU settlement scheme to retain their rights in the UK after Brexit, permanent residence remains an option for EU citizens looking to become eligible for British citizenship. The process of applying for naturalisation as a British citizen demands extensive proof of UK residency evidence, which can be evidenced by a permanent residence card. Additionally, where an EU spouse of a British citizen has permanent residence, they can apply to naturalise as soon they get their card, rather than waiting 12 months.
In this guide, we explain what permanent resident status means, who is eligible and how it applies to EEA citizens in the UK.
What is permanent residence?
Permanent residence grants an individual the right to live, work and study in the UK without any immigration restrictions, while still holding foreign citizenship and passport.
If you are an EEA or Swiss national, or a family member of a qualified national, subject to a passport or identity card check, you are exempt from immigration control in the UK under the Immigration Rules and entitled to reside in the UK for an initial period of 3 months.
Thereafter, you will automatically attain the right to residence in the UK and are able to participate in a qualifying activity, ie work, study and look for work or be self-employed or self-sufficient.
After 5-years continuous residence exercising your Treaty rights, you can apply for a permanent residence card.
With a permanent residence card as proof of your status, you may become entitled to apply to naturalise as British citizens after 12 months, or as soon as you are issued the permanent residence card if you are married to a British citizen, provided you meet the required criteria.
Permanent residence may also be available where:
|Attaining permanent residence|
|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|
|You are 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|
|You are 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); or|
|You are 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|
|You are the family member or extended family member of an EEA national who has ceased activity, or|
|You are the family member or extended family member of an EEA national former worker or self-employed person who has died.|
Do I need a permanent residence card?
A permanent residence card is not a mandatory requirement under EEA Regulations. However, should you wish to make an application to the Home Office for British citizenship, you will need to provide documentary evidence that you have met the five-year continuous residence requirement and during this time have participated in one or more of the qualifying activities. The permanent residence card acts as such evidence of your status and residence.
Applicants will also need to be free of any unspent convictions.
The card can also be used where you want to sponsor your partner’s visa application under the Immigration Rules or you are an extended family member of someone from the EEA or Switzerland and are yourself not an EEA or Swiss national.
Applications for a permanent residence card are made to the UK Home Office using form EEA (PR).
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 are the qualifying activities?
To qualify for permanent residence, you must have been active in the UK during the 5-year residence period either as a worker, job-seeker (registered with the job centre), student, self-employed person (with comprehensive sickness insurance) or a self-sufficient person (must have comprehensive sickness insurance). These are known as the ‘qualifying activities’.
It is permitted for you to have been in one or a number of these 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.
Your application will need to include evidence to support the qualifying activities you are relying on.
If you are applying on the basis of holding a residence certificate for five years, this will by itself be insufficient to qualify. An individual must prove that they were actually engaged in a qualifying activity for five continuous years.
What if I have been absent from the UK during the qualifying period?
There are no strict guidelines on absences for permanent residence, 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.
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.
How to make an application
In most cases, as an EEA or Swiss national, you can apply online for permanent residence using form EEA PR.
You will need to include supporting documents as evidence of your eligibility, as well as biometric information, two passport-sized photographs and a fee of £65 per applicant.
Collating the documents usually takes longer than applicants expect. The evidence that is required will vary depending on which qualifying activities you have been engaged in during the qualifying residency period. P45s, contracts of employment and payslips may, for example, be used as evidence of working within the UK. 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 provide either your original passport or ID card.
All documents must be in original format except where indicated and as applicable translated into English. It is beneficial to submit the additional documentation covering all the years you have been in the UK beyond the 5-year qualifying period.
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 as documentary evidence of PR status and naturalisation eligibility.
Naturalisation applications made by EEA nationals without a permanent residence document or EU settled status will be refused, and the application fee lost.
Before you start your online application, you are advised to collate all required information relating to your activity in the UK, such as paid employment, study etc, and time spent outside the UK lasting 6 months or more.
At the end of the application you will be advised which documents to send in support of your form. You will need to print the form and submit originals of the supporting documentation.
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.
For British citizenship, 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.
If you wish to apply for naturalisation once your permanent residence is approved, you can opt to take the test now and include the evidence in your citizenship application.
Can my dependants also apply?
As part of your EEA Permanent Residence application, you are able to include your spouse, civil partner, children and other relatives if they are currently in the UK with you and are dependent on you, or part of your household, even if they are a non-EEA national.
Permanent residence and Brexit
>While Britain remains in the EU, there is to be no change to the rights and status of EEA nationals living, working, visiting and studying in the UK.
However, EU nationals are required to register under the EU settlement scheme before Brexit to retain their rights to remain lawfully in the UK. After Brexit, the permanent residence card will no longer be valid.
EU citizens may still opt to apply for a permanent residence card if looking to apply for British citizenship. The process of applying for naturalisation as a British citizen demands extensive proof of UK residency evidence, which can be evidenced by a permanent residence card.
Additionally, where an EU spouse of a British citizen has permanent residence, they can apply to naturalise as soon they receive their card, rather than waiting 12 months.
If you already have a permanent residence card, you will need to take action to remain in the UK lawfully after Brexit:
|Permanent residence holders: options to remain lawfully in the UK after Brexit|
|EU settlement scheme||When applying to register for EU settled status as a permanent residence card holder, you will not need to provide evidence of your five years’ continuous UK residence as this was already established in your PR application.|
|British citizenship||If you have held permanent residence status for more than 12 months, or if you are married to a British citizen, you may consider applying to naturalise as a British citizen, if you meet the remaining criteria.|
PR or settled status?
EU citizens in the UK are required to register under the EU settlement scheme to retain their rights in the UK after Brexit. However, permanent residence cards may offer a smoother application for UK naturalisation since the residency requirement has already been established.
If you already hold permanent residence and will not be applying to naturalise, you will have to apply to transfer your status under the EU settlement scheme. This application is at no charge.
How to get British citizenship with permanent residence
If you hold a permanent residence card for 12 months or more, you are eligible to become a British citizen by the process of naturalisation provided you are not out of the UK for more than 90 days in a 12 month period preceding the application.
Do I need a registration certificate?
The registration certificate pre-dates EU settlement scheme.
Qualifying citizens of the EU and EEA or Switzerland and their close and extended family members can apply for a registration certificate as documentary proof of their right to live in the UK.
A registration certificate is not a mandatory requirement and does not in itself affect or determine your immigration status in the UK.
However, EU citizens are now required to register in the UK under the EU settlement scheme to safeguard their status in the UK after Britain leaves the EU.
Registration certificates will not be valid after 31 December 2020.
Do I have retained right of residence?
Under retained right of residence, individuals may be able to remain in the UK on the basis of having previously held the right to reside in the UK as a relative of an EU citizen with UK permanent residence status or a qualifying EU citizen ie a worker, student, self-employed person, self-sufficient person or someone looking for work in the UK.
|Retained right of residence|
|You may have attained the right of residence as the family member of an EEA national where:||Your EEA national relative has died|
|Your EEA national relative has left the UK|
|You have divorced or dissolved your civil partnership with the EEA national|
|You are the parent or have custody of a child in education who has retained right of residence|
|You are the child of an EEA national who has died or left the UK, or the child of their spouse or civil partner, or former spouse or civil partner, you were in education when that person died or left the UK, and you continue to be in education|
What is a derivative right to reside?
Persons with a derivative right of residence are not permitted to count time spent in the UK under this status towards the qualifying period for permanent residence.
They have ‘derived’ a right to reside in the UK through a qualifying person by generally being their primary carer or legal guardian with primary or shared responsibility for that person.
For instance, where they are the primary carer of an EEA national, where that EEA national is under 18 years of age, lives in the UK as a self-sufficient person and would not be able to remain in the UK if their primary carer left the UK indefinitely.
What is the Surinder Singh route?
>Under EU free movement laws, an individual moving from one EU member state to another has the right to return to that country. To take the Surinder Singh route to permanent resident status, you must be a family member of a British citizen, where you have both lived in an EEA country outside the UK.
|A residence card can be issued to a direct family member of a British citizen provided:||The British citizen exercised free movement rights as a worker, self-employed person, self-sufficient person or student in an EEA host country immediately before returning to the UK, or had acquired the right of permanent residence in the EEA host country, and|
|The British citizen would satisfy the conditions for being a qualified person if they were an EEA national, and|
|The family member and British citizen resided together in the other EEA member State and that residence was genuine, and|
|The purpose of the residence in the EEA host country was not as a means to circumvent any UK immigration law applying to non-EEA nationals (e.g. the Immigration Rules), and|
|The family member of the British citizen was a family member during all or part of their joint residence in the EEA State, and|
|Genuine family life was created or strengthened during their joint residence in the EEA State.|
Permanent residence FAQs
Do I need to apply for Settled Status if I have a permanent residence card?
To remain in the UK lawfully after Britain leaves the EU, permanent residence card holder will either have to have registered for the EU settlement scheme or have applied for, and been granted, British citizenship.
What is the difference between permanent residence and ILR?
Permanent residence applies to EEA nationals and their close family members, whereas indefinite leave to remain refers to UK settled status for non-EEA nationals. Immigration status under both PR or ILR is the same; the holder is able to remain in the UK to live and work without restrictions or immigration control. Both require the individual to have been resident in the UK for 5 years to be eligible.
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.
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 permanent residence is granted before applying for naturalisation, EU spouses of British citizens are exempt from the 12 month period and can apply to naturalise as soon as they are granted their permanent residence card.
My permanent residency application has been refused, what next?
If your application for permanent residence has been refused, you will be given the option to appeal, or it may in the circumstances be advisable to make a new application. Your next step will depend in large part on the Home Office’s stated grounds for refusal. You will have to act quickly as appeals must be filed within 14 days of receipt of the refusal notice.
How long does permanent residence last?
Permanent residence is indefinite and without time restriction, however, your status may be revoked if you have spent longer than two years outside of the UK, if you commit an offence that could lead to you being deported from the UK, or for reasons of national security.