1. It is not compulsory to apply
There is no essential requirement to apply for a residence document, be you an EU national or a non-EU family member. (Documents are often obtained because they confirm a right to work, which is especially important for those who are sponsored by an EU national but are from somewhere else in the world.) Despite the UK voting to leave the EU, Brexit has not happened yet, and the outcome of the referendum did not itself create additional requirements relating to residence documents. As a result, if you have not previously obtained a document to confirm your right of residence, you do not have to do so now.
2. A document might be useful to have anyway
Despite not being compulsory, residence documents retain a certain value. As government issued cards, they confirm identity and state your right to reside in the UK, and to work here. As we progress further towards Brexit, we know that existing residence documents will be replaced with new (albeit similar) documentation. We suspect that holding one of the existing documents will streamline the new documentation process, meaning that you might find it easier to restate your position from 2019 onwards. In addition, the post-Brexit documentation process will be extensive, with up to 3 million people to be assessed. That may well mean delays in obtaining a new residence card, during which time holding one of the existing documents could be of assistance to you.
3. The application process can often be completed online
UK Visas and Immigration is increasingly moving towards online and automated services, and EEA applications are being migrated to online application forms. This is a positive development; the permanent residence paper form is 85 pages long, and many of those pages are not applicable to the average applicant. The online form filters out irrelevant questions (with a few glitches still to be addressed), meaning that the application process should be quicker and easier. Although it is hoped that the online form will become open to all applicants, at present only EEA nationals may use the online form (and their dependants, if applying with them). Family members cannot use the online form if applying alone, and complicated cases – such as those who are self-sufficient and have unusual income streams – are also currently excluded.
4. You might be able to keep your passport
One of the biggest problems for applicants is having to surrender their passport for the duration of the application consideration process, which may take up to 6 months. To combat this, UK Visas and Immigration introduced the European Passport Return Service, which allows applicants to keep their passports while their applications are under consideration. The service costs extra (see below), and it involves a pre-arranged appointment at your local council office to allow for your original passport to be reviewed and copied. As with the online application form, this service is currently only open to EEA nationals and their family members who are applying with them.
5. It does not always have to be expensive
Applying for an EEA residence document costs a processing fee of £65 per person. If you add the passport return service, there will be an additional charge, but most councils only apply a fee of around £10 per person. This means that EEA applications are the cheapest UK immigration applications you can make, and it is further reason to consider applying for a card now even though mandatory documentation will not be introduced until 2019. Instructing a lawyer to help you with your application is not essential, and if your case is straightforward, you might feel comfortable making your application on your own. However, if you would like professional help, Latitude Law offers fixed price consultations from £250, which allow you an opportunity to discuss your application in more detail and to take formal legal advice.
Our caseworkers are experts in immigration law and what Brexit means for you, your family or your business. If you are interested in arranging an appointment with us, call our Manchester office on 0161 234 6800 or Liverpool on 0151 305 9600.