Options include applying for UK citizenship, permanent residence or registration certificate

Lawyers at Irwin Mitchell Private Wealth are highlighting the actions EU citizens working in the UK can take to protect their residence position following the referendum vote to leave the EU.

Alex Ruffel, partner at Irwin Mitchell Private Wealth said that unless it leaves the EU, the UK is still a member of the EU and citizens of member states have the right to enter, live and work in the UK on the basis of EU law.  If the UK leaves, EU law will cease to apply and it is not clear what arrangements will replace it.  Despite the uncertainty, there are steps that EU residents of the UK can take now to safeguard their position as much as possible:

  • If they have been resident in the UK for five years or more continuously, they should apply for a permanent residence card, which shows they have a right of permanent residence in the UK. The right is derived from EU law but in our view it is unlikely that permanent resident status will be withdrawn from EU citizens who have acquired it. A permanent residence card will serve as evidence of status.
  • If they have been resident in the UK for less than five years, they should consider applying for a registration certificate showing they are exercising EU rights to be in the UK. In the event that the UK enacts transitional rules that allow EU citizens who are resident at the time of Brexit to remain in the UK, such a certificate may be useful in showing UK residence.
  • If EU citizens already have permanent residence, they may wish to apply for naturalisation as a British citizen. Citizenship has advantages over permanent residence as it cannot be withdrawn, whereas permanent residence may cease if the holder ceases to have a home in the UK.

Alex Ruffel said:


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“One of the fundamental principles of EU law is freedom of movement, which gives EU citizens the right to relocate to and work in all EU states.  It is unclear how an exit from the EU will affect UK rules on residency because no-one knows what agreements the UK would negotiate with member states regarding the rights of their citizens to live and work in the UK.

“The best way EU citizens living and working in the UK can protect their status is to apply for permanent residence or a registration certificate showing that they are allowed in the UK. Those EU citizens with permanent residence should also consider naturalisation as a British citizen. This has several advantages over permanent residence as it cannot be withdrawn.”