Current regulations do not require EU nationals (or their non-EU family) to formally document their right of residence here. It is instead accepted that any EU national who can prove their identity (for example, with a national passport) is free to reside in the UK, and to work here. Employers do not require additional evidence of the right to work. Non-EU family members often do apply for Home Office identity documents confirming their own rights, but this is only necessary where they need to do so with their employer/education provider/etc.
Despite not being essential, there are several different ID cards that can be obtained from the Home Office, all of which confirm ongoing rights of residence and employment:
- Registration certificate: to confirm an EU national’s right to reside, based on their current activity
- Residence card: to confirm a non-EU family member’s right to reside, based on their EU’s sponsor’s current activity
- Document certifying permanent residence: to confirm an EU national’s right to remain in the UK indefinitely, issued after 5 years’ qualifying UK residence
- Permanent residence card: to confirm a non-EU family member’s permanent right to reside after 5 years’ qualifying UK residence, based on their EU sponsor having attained permanent residence
Since the referendum result confirming that the UK will leave the UK, the number of applications for these residence documents has increased. This is due to the uncertainty caused by the Brexit process, and people’s desire for a sense of stability (or even permanency). Applying for a permanent residence document is also essential for those wanting to make British citizenship applications, where the document is mandatory.
As detailed in the UK government’s recent policy paper (for a detailed analysis on the paper, please see our blog post: Brexit Update 27 June 2017), after Brexit the document requirements will change. The optional residence cards will cease to apply (or potentially, to have value), being replaced by a new mandatory documentation process which will be phased in over several years.
This leaves the question of whether it is now worth securing one of the existing types of document. The government’s position is that such documents remain unnecessary, and that there is no obligation to apply for one. It certainly looks to be the case that holding a document now will not exempt you from the new process in future. However, our advice remains that you should consider making an application for one of the types of existing cards. There are several reasons behind this:
- It can’t do you any harm – Applications are usually straightforward to make, and they don’t need to cost you a lot of money. The application fee is £65, and you are not obligated to engage a lawyer to assist you with the application if you don’t want to.
- It might help to streamline the future documentation process – The government is already promising a quick route to obtaining ID cards after Brexit, but it seems likely that applying with an existing residence document (especially a permanent residence document) will assist with that new application.
- You might need the document soon – If you intend to apply for British citizenship, you should plan for that now. The requirement to hold a permanent residence document in advance still applies, and so if you qualify for a such a card, you may wish to acquire one ASAP. That will allow a citizenship application to proceed before Brexit, exempting you from the future documentation process.
- You might need the document long-term – Despite the rather long policy paper released last week, there remains a lot of uncertainty about how EU nationals (and family) will assert their residence rights in the immediate aftermath of Brexit. The new documentation process may take years to be completed, and the specifics are unclear. We advise that the best way to protect yourself from Brexit day, particularly in relation to proving your ongoing right to work, is to apply for a residence document now. This might assist your employer in understanding your rights after Brexit, and hopefully will also give you a sense of security until the new documentation process is complete.
If you would like to speak to an advisor about your right of residence in the UK, please call us on 0161 234 6800 (Manchester) or 0151 305 9600 (Liverpool).