What is a Permanent Residence Application?
This blog post is aimed at EEA nationals setting out the basis on how to submit a permanent residence application for themselves and their family members who reside in the UK under EU/EEA free movement rules. If you are a non-EEA national who is in the UK on a visa, please read our pages on Indefinite Leave to Remain.
Settling in the UK as an EEA national
Permanent Residence is the right to live in the UK permanently without any restrictions or ongoing requirements.
The concept of Permanent Residence is based on European Union law and therefore only applies to EEA nationals and their family members who do not require a visa to travel within the EEA. Non-EEA nationals who reside in the UK on a visa should apply for Indefinite Leave to Remain, which is equivalent to Permanent Residence but is based on UK, rather than EU immigration law.
The travel and residence rights of EEA nationals are regulated by the EU/EEA free movement rules. EEA nationals are free to travel to and stay in other EEA member states without having to meet any requirements for up to 3 months.
After 3 months, EEA nationals must exercise a so-called qualifying activity if they wish to continue residing in a member state other than the one that they are a national of. Performing a qualifying activity is also referred to as exercising one’s treaty rights.
The main qualifying activities are employment, self-employment, study and economic self-sufficiency. The latter two require individuals to have private comprehensive sickness insurance.
After residing in the UK for a continuous period of 5 years as a worker, self-employed person, student or financially self-sufficient person, EEA nationals may be eligible for Permanent Residence. Please note that it is not necessary for you to perform the same qualifying activity throughout the 5-year period, e.g. you can be a worker for 2 years, financially self-sufficient for 1 year and self-employed for 2 years, so long as your stay is continuous and amounts to 5 years in total.
Permanent Residence gives you the right to live in the UK indefinitely without the requirement of carrying out a qualifying activity. Permanent Residence does not expire but it will be revoked if you leave the UK for more than 2 years.
Making a Permanent Residence card application
In theory, once you meet the eligibility requirements you automatically qualify for and obtain Permanent Residence and there is no need to go through a formal application process. However, if you wish to be sure of your status as a permanent resident or you wish to have confirmation for administrative purposes, you must apply for a Permanent Residence card.
A Permanent Residence card does not give you any additional rights, it is merely an official confirmation that you qualify for and have obtained Permanent Residence in the UK.
You are not required to apply for a Permanent Residence card and not having one does not put you at an immediate disadvantage. However, a Permanent Residence card will make it easier for you in the future to prove your immigration status. Without a card, the only way you could prove your settled status would be to produce 5 years’ worth of evidence showing that you meet or have met the eligibility criteria for Permanent Residence.
Meeting the requirements for Permanent Residence and permitted derogations
As mentioned above, EEA nationals who wish to obtain Permanent Residence in the UK must have resided in the country for a continuous period of 5 years.
This does not mean that you are not allowed to spend time outside of the country. However, you shouldn’t be absent from the UK for more than 6 months at a time as this would break the continuity of your residence.
The Home Office has a certain amount of discretion when it comes to assessing what constitutes an actual departure from and interruption of your continuous stay in the UK.
If you have been absent from the UK for more than 6 months at a time in the past 5 years, you may in certain circumstances still qualify for Permanent Residence. In your application for a Permanent Residence card, you must provide a strong justification and supporting evidence to explain why your prolonged absence from the UK should not be considered an interruption of your continuous residence. Exceptional circumstances resulting in long absences such as army service duty, pregnancy or essential studies or work commitments are usually tolerated by the Home Office.
In addition to the 5-year residence requirements, you must be able to demonstrate that you have been exercising a qualifying activity throughout the entire time period. You must provide evidence showing that you have been a worker, self-employed, a student or self-sufficient person, or a combination of these.
Any periods spent as a student or financially independent person also require proof of comprehensive sickness insurance. Although you may be entitled to medical care under the NHS, for the purposes of acquiring Permanent Residence you must have or have had private medical insurance while you are/were studying or not working.
Brexit – Permanent Residence and the new settled status scheme
In light of the UK’s upcoming departure from the EU, many EEA nationals are choosing to apply for a Permanent Residence card to ensure their status is secured and will not be affected by upcoming changes in migration law. Like the rest of EU law, the concept of Permanent Residence will (after a transition period) cease to exist in the UK. The government has announced that it will replace Permanent Residence with a new “settled status” scheme, the exact details of which are still being negotiated. Individuals who already hold a Permanent Residence card by the time the scheme is introduced in March 2019 will be able to exchange their card for free for a document which proves their settled status under the new scheme.
However, since neither the exact details of nor the application process for the new settled status scheme are yet known, we would urge UK-resident EEA nationals who meet to relevant requirements to apply for a Permanent Residence card as soon as possible. This way, they will have the peace of mind that their status is secured and will be able to avoid further administrative hassle and long processing times in the future.
How can NA Law Solicitors help with a Permanent Residence Application
We are a niche immigration law firm based in West London. Our team of immigration lawyers specialise in UK and EU migration law. If you have any questions on applying for an Permanent Residence or other related issues, please get in touch.