Following the recent BREXIT referendum, the number of European applications for residence and permanent residence documentation has increased immensely. While we do not yet know how the UK’s intention to leave the EU will affect citizens of EEA countries or Switzerland, we are in the meantime advising clients to obtain formal documentation which proves their right to live in the UK. These applications can be made by EEA or Swiss nationals living in the UK who are working, studying, self-employed, self-sufficient or looking for work, i.e. ‘qualified persons’. It is also possible to apply as a ‘family member’ of a ‘qualified person’ if you are an EEA/Swiss national’s spouse or civil partner, their child or grandchild who is either under 21 or a dependent, or their dependent parent or grandparent. There are also options available for unmarried partners and extended family members.
The increase in applications may explain the introduction by the Home Office of online forms for EEA applications. The paper forms for EEA applications have a reputation for being both long and unnecessarily confusing. It therefore comes as a welcome change that the Home Office have introduced online application forms, although it may be argued that the online forms are not any shorter or any less confusing. Note however that, unlike the paper forms, the online applications are available only to EEA and Swiss nationals, and not their family members.
EEA nationals can now complete their application forms and make payment of the £65 Home Office fee online. However, they will need to print and submit the completed application in paper form along with hard copies of the original documentary evidence. The guidance on how long it can take to expect a decision is six months, the same as it is with the paper applications.
An additional service which has been introduced alongside this is the European passport return service. This appears to be one of the main advantages of the new online system. It is available at certain local authorities and allows applicants to keep their passports while their application is being decided. The local authority will take a photocopy of the passport and forward the copy along with the application to the Home Office. An appointment has to be made with the appropriate local government department for this service and you must attend your appointment within 5 working days of submitting the online form.
Note however that for EU national applications, it is not necessary to submit a form at all, whether paper or online, as long as you submit enough evidence to show that you are a qualified person and you pay the requisite fee. If you do not answer some questions on the paper form (perhaps because they do not apply to you) the form can still be submitted. However, with the online form, each page has to be completed in full and in a specific order so that the applicant can move on to the next section and ultimately print and submit the application. Nevertheless, the online system is only in its very early stages and these technical difficulties may be resolved in due course.
If you are thinking about making an application or if you would like any further information on this matter then please contact Drummond Miller’s immigration team, a member of which will be happy to advise you.