EU nationals, and family members, acquire a right of permanent residence (PR) after lawfully residing in the UK for a continuous period of five years. The EU Settlement Scheme will be fully operational by the time the UK leaves the EU and allows people to apply for indefinite leave to remain. However, for those eligible, there are compelling reasons why individuals should still apply for a PR document before 29 March 2019, and why they should do so now, without further delay.
Until recently, there was little point in getting a PR document. Under the rights-based system of EU law, the PR document does not confer any rights: you acquire PR on completing five continuous years and the document merely declares the fact you have PR. However, in November 2015 there was a change requiring any EU national (and their family member) to hold a PR document if they wanted to become British. Furthermore, the uncertainty around Brexit led to a spike in the numbers of people seeking to have their rights confirmed through the PR document.
It remains a good idea to get a PR document. Without further ado, the top 5 reasons are:
- You need it to become British
As noted, there is now a legal requirement to hold a PR document before applying for citizenship. This requirement is not going away after Brexit. And with British citizenship comes ultimate Brexit security (especially if you can retain your original EU nationality and be a dual national!).
- It will speed up the route to becoming British
This is where it gets a bit technical. To become British, there is a separate requirement to hold PR/indefinite leave to remain for a full year, unless married to a British citizen. Importantly, there is no requirement to hold a PR document for a year, but simply to show the right of PR has been held for a year. The requirement to hold a PR document is a separate criterion.
Therefore, if an individual applies for a PR document and has at least six years’ continuous residence, then the individual acquired PR at least a year ago (PR would have been acquired after the fifth year of residence). In this scenario, and under the present system, once the individual has the PR document then an immediate application for British citizenship can be made.
However, if that same individual were to wait until the EU Settlement Scheme opens, and then apply for Settled Status, he would then have to wait a full year before he can become British. This author has been advised directly by the Home Office that those granted Settled Status will have to wait a full year before being able to apply for citizenship, regardless of how long they have lived here for. It’s also worth noting that the cost of citizenship increases annually, far above inflation (it’s increased by £550 over the past 7 years!). Missing out on a PR card could cost money as well as time.
- It’s only £65
Unlike with most exorbitantly priced immigration applications, PR documents are only £65. Furthermore, they are light on evidential requirements, for example, five P60s should suffice to prove PR if relying on being a ‘worker’.
- You can then exchange it free of charge for settled status
Although a PR document is £65, this can be exchanged free of charge for settled status later on. Those who register for settled status without a PR document are charged £65. So costs-wise there really is nothing to lose.
- Added security
Whilst the EU Settlement Scheme appears to be going ahead, regardless of whether there’s a deal or no deal, it still would not do any harm to have a document confirming your rights, given the on-going uncertainty, and given the low costs involved.
With still five months to go until Britain leaves the EU, there is still time to make this important decision and apply for a PR document today.