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UK permanent residency for EU citizens

European (EU) nationals can move to the UK to live and work. EU citizens can also bring their partner and dependent children under the age of 18 to accompany them.

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UK permanent residency for Irish citizens

Irish citizens have a special status in UK immigration and British nationality law that pre-dates EU law. An Irish citizen can travel freely into and out of the UK without restriction and are not subject to the requirement of exercising EU treaty rights.

Adult Irish citizens moving to the UK

Irish citizens are:

  • Not required to exercise EU treaty rights
  • Considered settled upon entry in the UK
  • Not required to obtain a permanent residence card before qualifying for naturalisation

After five years of continuous residence in the UK, an Irish citizen can apply for naturalisation as a British citizen. Both Ireland and the UK allow dual nationality.

Irish children under 18

Irish citizens are deemed as being settled in the UK as per section 1(3) of the Immigration Act 1971.

The consequence of this is that any children under the age of 18 (in most circumstances, though it can sometimes extend to those under the age of 21) of an Irish citizen and a British citizen parent can apply for indefinite leave to remain (ILR) immediately and would not have to apply for a dependancy visas.

Broadly speaking, then, a child can claim indefinite leave to remain in the UK where:

  • The child is under 18 years of age
  • One parent holds Irish citizenship
  • The other parent holds British citizenship
  • The definition of “present and settled” is given in paragraph 6*

*Given as, “…means that the person concerned is settled in the UK and, at the time that an application under these rules is made, is physically present here or is coming here with or to join the applicant and intends to make the UK their home with the applicant if the application is successful.”

In the context of an application under paragraph 298 of HC 395, the requirement states that one of the following should be true:

  • Both parents are present and settled in the UK
  • Both parents are being admitted on the same occasion for settlement
  • One parent is present and settled in the UK and the other is being admitted on the same occasion for settlement

This provision does not relate to citizens of the other European Union member states – only Irish citizens are treated as settled for this purpose.

In the context of a child born in the UK to an Irish citizen, that child will acquire citizenship under section 1(1)b of the British Nationality Act 1981, provided that the Irish citizen is ordinarily resident in the UK at the time of the birth.

In the context of an application for naturalisation as a British citizen under section 6(2) or 6(1) of the British Nationality Act 1981, an Irish citizen must be deemed as being "without time restrictions on their stay in the UK".

Get UK permanent residency as an EU citizen

European Union (EU) nationals can move to the UK to live and work by exercising their EU treaty rights. They can also bring extended family members to the UK.

EU citizens and treaty rights in the UK

To remain legally in the UK, you need to be exercising European Union (EU) treaty rights. This requires that you are a student, working or self-sufficient. On 27 October 2015, new regulations were passed in the UK to prevent EU citizens applying for British nationality if they do not first hold a permanent residence card in the UK.

After a period of five years' continuous residency in the UK, you can apply for this permanent residence card (as long as you meet the set of criteria) and become a permanent resident in the UK. After a further 12 months you will be able to naturalise as a British citizen.

Visas for partners of EU nationals

The EEA family permit allows you to join your EU national partner or family member in the UK. The basic criteria are:

  • You must apply from outside the EEA
  • You must be a family or "extended" family member of an EU national

As a non-EU national applying for an EEA family permit, you will only be able to apply if the EEA citizen you are joining in the UK is:

  • Already living in the UK
  • Travelling with you to the UK within the next six months

If the EEA citizen you are joining has been in the UK for over three months, then he or she will need to be a qualified person. This means they are working, studying, self-sufficient or looking for work in the UK or hold permanent right of residence.

Read more information on partner visas for people in a relationship with an EU national.

r a residence permit in the UK. It will make travelling abroad much easier and will show potential employers that you are able to work in the UK.

Visas are still available for parents wanting to join their children. This is usually only possible when the parent is financially dependent on the child in the UK (for European passport holders) or when a parent is unable to function in their home country due to illness or disability (British passport holders).

The European citizens to whom EEA permanent residence applies are: Austrians, Belgians, Bulgarians, Croatia, Cypriots, Czechs, Danes, Estonians, Finns, French, Germans, Greeks, Hungarians, Italians, Latvians, Lithuanians, Luxembourg Citizens, Maltese, Dutch, Polish, Portuguese, Romanians, Slovakians, Slovenians, Spanish and Swedes.

EEA family permits and residency cards

An EEA family permit makes it possible for family members who are not EEA nationals to travel and join their family in the UK. A successful applicant can study, work or live in the UK without restriction. Once you have been granted a family permit, you may be able to apply for indefinite leave to remain and British nationality.

Who needs to apply for an EEA family permit?

You must be from outside the EEA and be a family member or “extended” family member of an EEA national.

The permit is suitable for a non-EEA national who is:

  • The spouse or civil partner of an EEA or Swiss national
  • A descendant (child or grandchild) of the EEA national or their spouse/civil partner and is under 21
  • A dependent descendant (child or grandchild) of the EEA national or their spouse/civil partner aged 21 and over
  • A dependent relative in the ascending line (parents or grandparents) of an EEA or Swiss national or their spouse/civil partner

UK immigration law regards adopted family members as natural family.

Qualifying as an extended family member or unmarried partner

An extended family member” would be a brother, sister, aunt, uncle, cousin, niece or nephew for example. You will need to prove at least one of the following: They’re dependent on the EEA citizen, a member of the EEA citizen’s household or have a health condition that requires the EEA citizen look after them.

An “extended family member” would be a brother, sister, aunt, uncle, cousin, niece or nephew for example. You will need to prove at least one of the following: They’re dependent on the EEA citizen, a member of the EEA citizen’s household or have a health condition that requires the EEA citizen look after them.

You can apply as an unmarried partner if you can show that you’re in a lasting relationship with an EEA national.

* Extended family members and unmarried partners are not guaranteed to receive a permit. Your individual circumstances will be considered when applying. Another route to consider if you are an unmarried partner is the UK spouse visa.

Eligibility for the EEA family permit

Other ways you may be eligible include:

  • Derivative right of residence: If you’re the carer of someone who has the right to be in the UK, the carer’s child, or the child of an EEA national who previously worked in the UK
  • Surinder Singh application: If you’ve lived in another EEA country with a British family member
  • Retained right of residence: You have the right to stay in the UK as the family member of an EEA national who has died, left the UK or is no longer your spouse or civil partner

EEA family permit requirements

To apply for an EEA family permit, the EEA citizen you’re joining in the UK must be present in the UK or they must be travelling to the UK with you within six months of your application date. If they’ve been in the UK for more than three months, they must be permanent resident or be a “qualified person”. This means that they are:

  • Working
  • Self-employed and paying tax on National Insurance
  • Studying
  • Financially independent

It’s important for you to provide evidence that you have accommodation and financial support in the UK before applying for the EEA family permit.

EEA family permit supporting documents

You will be required to bring:

  • A valid passport
  • Evidence of your relationship to your EEA family member*
  • Your family member’s valid passport or national identity card**

* For example, a marriage certificate, civil partnership certificate, birth certificate or proof that you have lived together for two years if unmarried.

** A certified copy will be acceptable if you’re unable to provide the original.

UK residence cards for EU nationals

Once you have been given permission to join your partner you can apply for a UK residence card. It will make travelling abroad much easier and will show potential employers that you are able to work in the UK.

How long can I stay in the UK with an EEA family permit?

This permit is valid for six months. During this period, you’re permitted to leave and enter the UK as many times as you need. During this six-month period, you’re expected to apply for a residence permit.

An EEA family permit for a non-EEA family member is usually issued for a period of five years. After this time, you can make an application for indefinite leave to remain (ILR) in the UK. To be accepted for ILR you must pass the “life in the UK test” and the English language test.

Can I stay after my EEA family permit expires?

You may stay in the UK after your permit has expired if:

  • You’re the family member of an EEA national
  • You qualify for a Surinder Singh application
  • You have retained right of residence
  • You have a derivative right of residence

If you’re an extended family member of an EEA national and want to stay in the UK, you must apply for a residence card. You’re not required to apply, but it will make proving your right to live and work in the UK easier.

How long does it take to receive an EEA family permit?

The EEA family permit processing time can vary. Generally, once submitted, an application will take between 10-15 working days in South Africa.

Associated fees

An EEA family permit is free.

A permanent residence card includes a £65 fee per person plus £19.20 to have biometric information such as your fingerprints and pictures taken.

Other countries within the EEA not including the UK

Austria

Germany

Poland

Greece

Portugal

Bulgaria

Romania

Croatia

Ireland

Republic of Cyprus

Italy

Slovenia

Latvia

Spain

Denmark

Sweden

Estonia

Luxembourg

Finland

Malta

Liechtenstein

Belgium

Hungary

Slovakia

Czech Republic

Lithuania

Iceland

France

Netherlands

Norway

Switzerland is not part of the EEA but operates a single market. Swiss nationals possess the same rights as EEA members when it comes to living and working in the UK.

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