What you need to know about the impending European exit

brexit-1074x716Following the EU referendum vote, where the British public voted by majority to leave the European Union, Watson Ramsbottom have put together some information that some European natives may find useful. The article features many of the frequently asked questions that our immigration department have experienced since the ‘Brexit’ vote was confirmed.

What are my current rights to remain in the UK as an EU national?

EU nationals have rights to remain in the UK, under what is referred to as ‘freedom of movement’ whether you are a worker, self-employed, student, self-sufficient or job seeker (known as treaty rights). These rights will continue until the UK comes out of the EU. Any EU national can continue to enter or remain in the UK until any changes in the law are effective.

As an EU national currently in the UK you will have acquired rights, depending on how long you have lived in the UK. This can be shown by obtaining a 5 year residence card evidencing your rights. Whilst this is not compulsory, it would be proof of your right to remain, to work etc. These rights in the future are likely to be part of the negotiations when the prime minister chooses to invoke the decision to leave the European Parliament.

How will Britain leave the EU?

Article 50 of the Lisbon treaty, “Any member state may decide to withdraw from the Union in accordance with its own constitutional requirements”, will be triggered by the Prime Minister making an application to withdraw from the EU. UK will begin talks on the terms of the exit and trade deals.   This may not happen until 2017 and it may take 2 years before the UK comes out of the EU.

How will I be affected?

There are concerns that those currently resident in the UK will lose their rights under European Economic Area (EEA) regulations. However, a person who has been in the UK exercising treaty rights for a continuous period of 5 years will automatically acquire permanent residence. It is likely these rights will continue where a person has acquired permanent residence.

What if I have not been in the UK for 5 years to acquire permanent residence?

It is anticipated the UK is likely to introduce new legislation. This may not be as favourable as the EEA Regulations, because the Home Office may require an application under immigration law to be made and the rules will probably be sterner. However until Article 50 of the Lisbon treaty is invoked and negotiations begin, it is unknown whether the same protection would be given in the future if a person entered the UK after the vote.

How do I qualify for Indefinite Leave to Remain?

Any European Union national who has lived in the UK for a continuous period of 5 years in accordance with the EEA Regulations 2006, can apply for indefinite leave to remain under Regulation 15 of the EEA Regulations 2006.

It is unknown what future developments there will be and for this reason we would strongly advise you to make an application for Indefinite leave to remain as that may give you peace of mind for your future. You can do this by contacting our immigration department at our Blackburn office on 01254 67 22 22.

Once you have obtained a permanent residence card it is unlikely that this will be taken from you unless there is an element of fraud in obtaining the card or serious criminality occurs after it has been granted.

Do I need to apply for permanent residence?

If you have exercised treaty rights for 5 years, permanent residence is granted automatically. An application to confirm permanent residence can be made by calling our Blackburn office (01254 67 22 22) and speaking to a member of our immigration department. Since November 2015, if you wish to apply for British nationality you will need to have written confirmation of a Permanent Residence Card showing permanent residence. To accompany this an application to the Home Office would need to be made.

To qualify, you would need to provide documents that show you have been in the United Kingdom for a continuous period of 5 years, exercising a treaty right as a qualified person (worker, self-employed, self-sufficient, student or job seeker) with supporting documents for the 5 year period.

Having permanent residence means there are no restrictions on leave to remain in the UK.

What will happen to immigration when Britain leaves the EU?

Britain will no longer have to accept ‘free movement of people’ from Europe. Following the leave vote, it is unknown what agreements will be made and whether free movement will continue.

The entitlements of existing EU nationals such as right to work, access to benefits and use of NHS are expected be different and relevant immigration laws are likely to be updated.

Relevant authorities may say that there is no protection for EU nationals who entered the UK after the vote. Again this is uncertain and only estimates can be made at the likely changes at this stage, because it is dependent on the negotiations regarding entitlements of European nationals after UK leaves the European Union.