Over the past few months there has been an increase in the number of enquiries from European nationals and their family members living in the UK who are anxious about the impact of a possible “Brexit”.
Many individuals are seeking to secure their status in the UK either by applying for recognition of their Permanent Residence in the UK or applying to become a British national.
Understandably, we have found that this is leading to an increase in processing times for these types of applications.
Even if the outcome of the EU referendum on 23 June 2016 favours leaving the EU, there will not be any overnight change to European free movement rights, since the UK government must give at least two years’ notice to leave the EU. It is therefore highly likely that the number of applications from European nationals would rise even more sharply during this two-year period with a consequent rise in processing times. This could mean applicants waiting for a full six months for their applications to be processed.
As a reminder, European nationals and their family members who apply for documents to evidence their right to remain in the UK must submit original supporting documentation, including passports. It is possible to request the return of the supporting documents from the Home Office before the application is processed. However, if the family member of the European national is a visa national (i.e. from a country where individuals require a visa to visit the UK) and that applicant’s current EEA family member documentation has already expired, the applicant will not be able to travel in and out of the UK during the processing period, even if their passport has been returned.
We would therefore advise family members of EU nationals applying for an EEA Residence Card or Permanent Residence to apply well ahead of the expiry of their current EEA residence document so that they are not stranded in the UK during the processing period which can - and often does - take up to 6 months.
With the referendum looming and the uncertainty this brings, European nationals and their family members may want to start the process to secure their permanent residency in the UK now rather than later.