Non-British citizens may have the right to reside in the UK where they meet certain criteria. We look at the eligibility of non-EEA nationals and EU citizens for UK residency and how to apply to confirm your status.
UK Residency for EEA & Swiss nationals
Am I entitled to UK residency?
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 have a right to UK residency as long as you remain a qualified person by exercising your Treaty rights as one of the following:
- a worker
- a job-seeker
- a student
- a self-employed person
- a self-sufficient person.
You will automatically acquire UK residency having exercised your Treaty rights in the UK for any continuous 5-year period. In limited circumstances, you may be able to apply for UK residency prior to 5 years if you are either:
- a former worker or self-employed person who has ceased activity in the UK because you are permanently incapacitated, you have retired, or you are now working or self-employed in another EEA state but still retain your residence in the UK.
- the family member or extended family member of an EEA or Swiss national who has ceased activity.
- the family member or extended family member of an EEA or Swiss national former worker or self-employed person who has died.
In the event that you don’t satisfy any of the above criteria, the following routes to obtaining UK residency may be available to you:
- You are a former family member of an EEA or Swiss national and you have retained your right of residence after the EEA or Swiss national died or left the UK, or your/their marriage or civil partnership ended in divorce, annulment or dissolution. This is called a ‘retained right of residence’.
- You are a family member of a British citizen who worked or was self-employed in another EEA state before returning to the UK. This is known as a ‘Surinder Singh’ application.
Do I need a permanent residence card as proof of UK residency?
Having resided in the UK for 5 years, you have the option of applying for a permanent residence card, although this is not a mandatory requirement under EEA Regulations.
As an EEA or Swiss national, or family member of a qualified national – who satisfies the qualifying residence period – you do not need a permanent residence card to prove your right to live in the UK unless:
- You want to apply for British citizenship.
- You want to sponsor your partner’s visa application under the Immigration Rules.
- You are an extended family member of someone from the EEA or Switzerland and are yourself not an EEA or Swiss national.
You can only apply as an extended family member if you have held valid residence documentation, eg, an EEA family permit, throughout the relevant qualifying period. Extended family members include siblings, cousins, aunts and uncles, nieces and nephews, relatives by marriage, relatives from a different generation, eg, a great-aunt, or an unmarried partner in a lasting relationship.
If applying as an extended family member, you must also be one of the following:
- Before coming to the UK you were dependent on the qualified person, or were a member of their household, and you are still dependent on them or are still a member of their household.
- You require the care of the qualified person, or of their spouse or civil partner, because you have a serious medical condition.
As a direct family member of an EEA or Swiss national, a permanent residence card is not mandatory but it can help when re-entering the country. It will also prove your entitlement to work in the UK and help prove you qualify for certain benefits and services.
A direct family member includes the spouse or civil partner of an EEA or Swiss national. It also includes direct descendants (or of their spouse or civil partner) who are under 21 or are their dependants, as well as dependant direct relatives such as grandparents.
How do I apply for a permanent residence card?
In most cases, as an EEA or Swiss national, you can apply online. Applications can also be made by post or at a premium service centre. You will need to include supporting documents as listed on the appropriate form, two passport sized photographs and a fee of £65 per applicant.
If you are a non-EEA national applying for UK residency, you must also give your biometric information, ie; fingerprints and a digital photograph.
A qualified person applying online can add close or extended family members to their application. Otherwise, if you are applying as a direct or extended family member you will need to apply separately using the appropriate form.
What is the status of EEA nationals currently residing in the UK?
There will be no change to the rights and status of EEA nationals living, working, visiting and studying in the UK while the UK remains in the European Union (EU). However, once the UK leaves the EU, the permanent residence card will no longer be valid after 31 December 2020. The new settled status scheme will become available for EEA citizens and their family members to apply for UK residency.
UK Residency for Non-EEA Nationals
Am I eligible to apply for UK residency?
If you are not an EEA or Swiss national, or family member of a qualified national, in most cases an application will need to be made for indefinite leave to remain (ILR). If ILR is granted, this will provide you with permission to live and work in the UK free from immigration restrictions.
Your eligibility to apply for UK residency will depend on your existing immigration category and ability to meet the relevant rules in place. This will require specialist advice on your circumstances and eligibility.
In most cases, to qualify for UK residency, you will need to have been continuously resident in the UK for at least 5 years prior to the date of your application. You may also be required to demonstrate your knowledge of language and life in the UK.
How do I apply for UK residency as a non-EEA national?
Applications for UK residency as a non-EEA national can be made online, by post, or in person at a premium service centre. You will need to include your supporting documents listed on the form, two passport sized photographs and the correct fee. If you are a single applicant the normal specified fee is £2389. There is an additional fee for each dependant applying with you.
Should I secure legal advice when applying for UK residency?
An application for UK residency will be based on your individual circumstances. It is therefore important to seek expert legal advice from an immigration specialist to assess your prospects of a successful outcome prior to submitting any application.
Other routes for UK residency
Citizens of commonwealth countries
Citizens of some Commonwealth countries may have the right to live in the UK either through marriage or through their parents. This right of residence can be proved by their passport. Where the individual does not have a passport, they can apply for a certificate of entitlement to the right of abode to evidence their status.
Permanent residence may also be available to Commonwealth citizens with a UK-born grandparent under the UK ancestry route. Restrictions do however apply, including the requirement that the applicant must have entered the UK with prior permission under UK ancestry and no other route.
Note that ‘Windrush’ cases are dealt with separately under a specific scheme.
Spouses & partners
UK residency is not automatically granted to spouses and civil partners of British citizens.
Spouses and civil partners are permitted to reside in the UK only where they meet the financial requirements and where they can evidence their marriage or partnership is legal, genuine and subsisting, and they must obtain entry clearance before coming to the UK.
Do you have a question about UK residency?
DavidsonMorris are specialist immigration advisers to individuals looking to establish and evidence their right to reside in the UK. We can advise on the immigration options available to you and guide you through the relevant Home Office application process.
Contact us if you have a question about your right to UK residency.