The Current Position
There has been no change to the rights and status of EEA / Swiss nationals and their family members residing in the UK as a result of the EU referendum last June.
The UK remains a Member State of the EU and free movement laws continue to apply.
Prime Minister Theresa May will invoke Article 50 of the Treaty on European Union, which is the start of the process of the UK leaving the EU, on 29th March 2017.
It is anticipated that negotiations between the EU and the UK around the Brexit process will take two years to complete, and the UK remains a member of the EU throughout this process.
The EU Single Market seeks to guarantee ‘four freedoms’ – the free movement of goods, capital, services, and people – among the EU’s 28 member states.
However, the Prime Minister confirmed in a speech in January that the UK would not seek membership of the single market after leaving the EU. Instead, the UK will push for a new free trade agreement, giving it “the greatest possible access” to the single market.
How this will affect free movement of people is as yet unclear, although there has been some indication from the government that “the legal status of EU nationals living in the UK, and that of UK nationals in EU member states will be properly protected.”
There are likely to be transitional provisions protecting the rights of EEA/Swiss nationals already living and working in the UK at the time of withdrawal.
The government has previously indicated that there would be restrictions on migration from the EU once the Brexit process has been concluded, but precisely what form this would take has not been confirmed.
What does Brexit mean for me?
- If you have lived in the UK for fewer than 5 years exercising free rights, you are eligible to apply for a Residence Permit
- If you have lived in the UK for 5 years exercising free rights you may qualify for Permanent Residence
- If you have lived in the UK for 6 years exercising free rights, and have Permanent Residence, you may qualify for UK Citizenship
- If you are a Croatian national you are subject to worker authorisation for your first 12 months of employment in the UK and will need to obtain an Accession Worker Authorisation document
What does Brexit mean for my family?
- If your family members are also members of the EEA, they will have the same rights as you
- If your family are non-EEA nationals, but in the UK as your family members, they will be able to continue to remain in the UK and qualify for Permanent Residence or UK Citizenship in line with your eligibility at this time. It is as yet unknown whether this will continue to be the case post-Brexit
- If your family are non-EEA nationals currently residing outside of the UK, you may wish to consider applying for a Family Permit so they may join you as dependents
What should I do now?
You will need to consider whether you and your family members may meet the criteria to qualify for Permanent Residency (PR) or UK Citizenship, before the UK leaves the EU.
If you do not currently qualify, the option is to apply for a Residence Card/document to confirm your rights in the UK.
Where necessary, your family members are advised to apply for a Family Permit/residence document to confirm their rights in the UK.
It is not a compulsory requirement for EEA nationals to obtain a document from the Home Office; however, this will document your status and rights in the UK prior to the UK’s withdrawal from the EU.
Contact Dearson Winyard International today to discuss your options.
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This overview is not exhaustive and does not substitute for actual advice based on specific circumstances. Different employer and individual circumstances will require bespoke advice. Readers are reminded that immigration laws are fluid and can change at a moment’s notice without any warning.