There are currently just over three million non-British EU/EEA nationals living in the UK, and many of them are naturally concerned about exactly how the recent outcome of the UK’s EU referendum will affect them.
London, UK (PRWEB) July 19, 2016
The United Kingdom is currently a country in limbo, one where the consequences of the country’s decision to break away from Europe are not fully understood. There will be many questions asked in the coming weeks about what happens next. What the impact of the UK’s decision to leave the EU will have on UK immigration system as we know it and particularly EEA nationals hoping to reside in the country will be is yet to be announced. However, as immigration and the right of free movement for EEA nationals was one of the cornerstone issues for Leave campaigners, it is certainly expected that they will be severely impacted. The rights of EEA nationals currently living in the UK are not guaranteed, and the process of entering the country for EEA nationals hoping to move to the UK permanently is likely to become much more complicated in the near future.
There are currently just over three million non-British EU/EEA nationals living in the UK, and many of them are naturally concerned about exactly how the recent outcome of the UK’s EU referendum will affect them. Much discussion about the impact of the Brexit is, at this point, speculative, because until Article 50 is invoked and the UK officially makes the key steps towards leaving the EU, its position within the Union is still questionable. However, many experts have made a series of highly educated guesses about how EEA nationals and their families living in the UK will ultimately be impacted. Whilst everyone in the UK is asking questions about the impact this decision will have on the free market, trade agreements, workers’ rights and the financial service industry, both British Citizens and EEA nationals living in the UK permanently have more particular and specific questions that will impact their lives, particularly if they are married to, or are planning to marry, a non-EEA national.
The good news is that those non-EEA nationals who have applied for, or are already the holder of UK spouse, unmarried partner and fiancée visas are unlikely to notice any changes or ill effects in terms of the UK immigration process, as a result of the referendum’s outcome. UK settlement partner, marriage and fiancee visas are issued under UK immigration Rules to individuals in the instance that their partner is either a British citizen or has permanent settled status in the country (indefinite leave to remain or right of abode). Therefore, it is highly unlikely there will be any changes to the settlement visa application process or to how applications for these visas are handled by UK Visas and Immigration (UKVI) as a result of the Brexit.
Couples who are intending to make use of the Surinder Singh route are likely to find that the process of applying for an EEA family permit is impacted by the Brexit decision in the very near future. This route is often adopted by couples that do not meet the financial requirement of the traditional UK settlement visa application. The Surinder Singh judgment allows the sponsoring British citizen to move to another EU country and apply for an EEA family permit to bring their non-EEA family members to the UK under the EEA Family Permit scheme rather than by applying for a UK settlement spousal visa under UK immigration Rules. However, as a result of the Brexit, it is considered to be highly likely that this route of entry to the UK will be closed permanently.
The specific impacts cannot be fully discussed until Article 50 is invoked and negotiations between Brussels and the British Government begin. However, based on the arguments adopted by the Remain campaign during the EU referendum, it is likely that current EEA citizens that are resident in the UK (no matter how long term that residency) may be asked to apply for the relevant (Points Based or Family) visa in order to stay in the country, and future EEA applicants, including family members applying for an EEA family permit under European Community Law, will almost certainly have to apply for UK visas in order to enter or reside in the country just as non-EEA nationals are currently required to do.
For individuals from other EEA countries wishing to move to the UK once the split from the EU is completed, the key to their entry to the UK is likely to be whether or not the country wishes to remain a part of the EU Common Market. Whether or not EEA nationals will have to apply for a visa to enter or reside in the UK, just as non EEA nationals currently do, is very much dependent on whether the UK remain in the European Common Market. If the UK wishes to remain a part of the EU Common Market, then it has been made clear that freedom of movement for all EEA nationals would be an integral part of this agreement. However, if the UK leaves the Common Market and distances itself from the EU on every level then routes of entry into the UK for EEA nationals and their non-EEA family members will change completely.
Most EEA nationals already living and working in the UK are likely to be affected by the Brexit depending on how long they have exercised their treaty rights for, particularly those who have been in the UK for less than five years and are not eligible to apply for permanent residence yet. It could well be the case that the rules around obtaining an official Home Office document certifying permanent residence are changed as a result of Brexit. In order for an EEA national to gain permanent status in the UK, they are expected to live in the UK as a 'qualified person' for at least five consecutive years. The freedom of movement within the EU (and therefore currently in the UK) means that no visa is currently necessary in order to secure those five resident years. However, it is predicted that once the UK leaves the EU, those EEA nationals who have been living in the UK for less than five years will be required to apply for a visa to reside in the country, just as non-EEA citizens currently are, and those nationals who do not meet the visa entry requirements (which are not currently known) would not be able to stay or reside in the UK. Those who have been in the UK for more than five years may be eligible to apply for permanent residence to confirm their right to live and work in the UK.
The UK immigration Rules will not change overnight, but it is inevitable that they will change over time as a result of the Brexit. EEA nationals and their family members that are currently residing in the UK may not be protected from these new rules, or from the new visa requirements. As a result, it is recommended that those residing in the UK under European Community Law keep all of their paperwork that proves they have had five years of continuous residency in the country, and therefore fulfil the criteria needed to apply for a Home Office document certifying permanent residence. Applying for permanent residence will secure the right to remain in the UK on an indefinite basis and protect EEA nationals from being subject to the new immigration requirements that are likely to be introduced as a result of the Brexit referendum.
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