The recent referendum on EU membership has left far more questions than answers and we have been contacted by many clients both old and new worried about the implications of the vote for them.


What should you know about Brexit?

Some believe there will be a second referendum; some believe there won’t. Some believe we could still be in the EU for decades to come and others beg to differ.

Politically and socially it is all just bizarre, with the uncertainty leaving everyone feeling anxious. In particular non UK born European Citizens residing here. Many ask us “What does the future hold for me in the UK?  Whether they would be asked to return back to their Country of origin or if they stay here will they have different rights to that of British Citizens?

Former Prime Minister, Tony Blair was quoted recently in The Guardian Newspaper saying about Brexit that “We have done something rather bizarre with Brexit….It’s like moving house without having seen the new house. We have made an agreement to exchange, but we don’t yet know the terms of Brexit, we don’t know the costs and the consequences.


So where does this vote now leave us?

Well so far nothing has changed…

Any EU National currently residing in the UK has the protection of their “treaty rights”. Those that exercise their treaty rights are known as “qualified persons”.

A “qualified person” can exercise their treaty rights as a:

  • job seeker; or
  • worker; or
  • self-employed person; or
  • self-sufficient person; or
  • student

What this means in practice is that any EU National has the right to remain in the UK, study and work here. Except in very limited circumstances this is an absolute right and you cannot be made to leave the country.

So what about the future, when the UK is no longer a member of the EU?

Well, this is the worrying bit because nobody knows.

Immigration lawyers nationally have been approached by many prospective clients since the Brexit vote seeking advice on how to protect themselves and their families from the threat of forced expulsion from the UK. Further, there is a fear that the government might now seek to prevent further EU nationals migrating to the UK and/or will seek to discriminate against non UK born residents when it comes to allocating social housing, providing state benefits, schooling, healthcare etc. All of these proposals were debated prior to the vote as likely to be implemented in the event of a “remain” vote. Now that we have an “exit” vote, such changes are likely to be only the starting point.

So, what can be done to protect your right to remain in the UK and/or ensure that you are treated the same as someone who was born here?

Well, two practical steps can be taken to protect your right to remain in the UK. You can:-

  1. Apply for permanent residency. As it sounds such an application, if successful will give you the permanent right to remain ie work, study, reside in the UK.
  1. Apply for full British Citizenship. Such an application, if successful grants you all of the rights of a UK born Citizen.


So, how do you do this?

To gain permanent residency as an EU National you must have resided in the UK continuously for a period of five years and have been a ‘qualified person’ throughout those five years.

Simply submitting an application for a Permanent Residence Card is not straightforward since you must provide supporting documents including a completed 85 page long Application form.

Since the 12th November 2015, to apply for full British Citizenship, you must first successfully obtain a Permanent Residence Card. A Permanent Residence Card does not automatically allow you to apply for British Citizenship. You must have held the status of being a permanent resident in the UK for 12 months before you make your application. What this means is that after five years of continuous residence has been completed in the UK, you must stay for a further year in the UK (6 years in total) before you are eligible to apply for British Citizenship.

What if I don’t want to apply for a Permanent Residence Card?

If you make an application to naturalise yourself as a British Citizen without a Permanent Residence Card your application will be refused. This means that the application fee is lost, and will not be refunded.

We at Optimal Solicitors could help you with completing and submitting both your permanent residence and British Citizenship applications. You don’t have to instruct lawyers to do this; you could for example ask a translator to help you complete the questionnaires. Many people do as they consider cost to be the only relevant factor. However, in our experience getting good sound legal advice could save you a considerable amount of time and expense in the long run by getting the application right in the first place. Time and again immigration lawyers get asked to appeal an application that has been refused since some of the paperwork has not been completed properly. Going through the appeal process is time consuming, costly and stressful with no guarantees of success.

When you instruct Optimal Solicitors you know that the quality of service is guaranteed. We take the time to go through your application carefully, page by page to ensure that all relevant sections are completed properly. We will provide you with a list of documents which you are required to submit with your application and advise you on the strength and weakness of your case and the best course of action for you to take. Put simply, your application is our application.

If you are worried about the implications of Brexit on you, your family, or business then please contact us. It costs nothing to ask. Maybe you have a friend or relative who is thinking of relocating to the UK, but they are worried that the time is not right to do so. Whatever your concern, why not speak to us with no obligation?   We only charge where you instruct us to complete the applications for you.