Immigration and the steps to British Citizenship
SA Law’s recent UK immigration seminar was extremely well-attended, reflecting the concern many non-UK nationals have about the uncertainty of Brexit.
After presenting a brief overview of the current situation, we turned our attention to the many questions that attendees had. Naturally, most questions focused on three areas:
- What options are available to non-UK nationals who wish to remain in the UK?
- What are the criteria requirements for applications?
- What is the process of applying?
Generally, the answers depend on whether you are a national of a European Economic Area (EEA) country, or from outside the EEA. This page covers some of the key questions and answers from the event.
Immigration for EEA citizens
Nationals from EEA countries and Switzerland have the right to apply for a status called ‘Permanent Residency’ if they have been a `Qualified Person’ in the UK for a continuous five-year period, and have not had absences of over 180 days in each and any 12-month period. That said, a single absence of up to 12 months may be acceptable in exceptional circumstances, such as illness, pregnancy or for vocational reasons.
I have lived in the UK for five years. Part of the time I was working for a company, but later I began my own business on a self-employed basis. Does all of this time count towards my five-year qualifying period?
Yes. You may be eligible to apply for Permanent Residence if you have been a `Qualified Person’ throughout the five-year period. This can include time as a worker, self-employed person, job-seeker (with conditions), self-sufficient person or a student. However, if you were self-sufficient or a student, you must have comprehensive health insurance for the relevant period.
I am an EEA national, but my wife and child are non-EEA nationals. Are they eligible to apply for Permanent Residency?
As non-EEA family members derive their rights from the EEA sponsor, they may also be able to apply for Permanent Residence, depending on whether they meet the residence criteria and other requirements.
How do I apply for Permanent Residency, and how much does it cost?
Applicants can use an online application or a printable hard copy form, although the online form cannot be used in certain situations. This includes:
- Family members who are applying at a different time to their EEA sponsor
- Students or self-sufficient people who are either financially responsible for another family member, or reliant on a family member for financial support
- Those applying based on a ‘retained right of residency’ in the UK
- Those applying under the Surinder Singh category of having lived in another EEA country with an eligible family member who is a British citizen.
The cost for applying is £65 per person, whether you use the online or printed version.
How long does it take to receive a decision?
The UK Government commits to take no more than six months to process and decide on a Permanent Residency application.
Immigration for non-EEA citizens
The process is slightly different for non-EEA nationals who wish to apply for ‘Indefinite Leave to Remain’. These applications are made under UK immigration rules rather than EEA regulations.
When can I apply for Indefinite Leave to Remain?
Typically, after five years. However, there are a number of exceptions, such as the type of visa you have held during that period. It’s worth bearing in mind that you can submit your application up to 28 days before your five years are complete, but no earlier.
What are the criteria for applying for Indefinite Leave to Remain?
Most Tier 1 and Tier 2 visa-holders can apply for Indefinite Leave to Remain. As with Permanent Residency, you must not have left the country for more than 180 days in any 12-month period. Tier 2 visa-holders must also be earning a minimum of £35,000. Be aware that this will rise to £35,500 in April 2018. There are other criteria relating to how earnings are calculated, and an immigration specialist can help you understand how they apply to you.
How do I apply for Indefinite Leave to Remain, and how much does it cost?
Indefinite Leave to Remain is applied for using a printed application form, and the current cost is £1,875 per applicant. Be aware that government fees are subject to annual changes.
How long does it take to receive a decision?
Normally, it takes up to 6 months to process and decide an application. However, you can also take advantage of a premium same-day service, which costs an additional £500.
Applying for British Citizenship
For most applicants, Permanent Residency and/or Indefinite Leave to Remain amount to the first step towards acquiring British Citizenship.
If you are the spouse or civil partner of a British citizen, you can apply for British Citizenship as soon you achieve Permanent Residency or Indefinite Leave to Remain status. Otherwise, you must have held either Permanent Residency or Indefinite Leave to Remain for at least 12 months before you can apply.
The criteria for British Citizenship can be quite complex, and are listed on the UK Government’s website. However, it’s best to discuss your application with an immigration specialist, who can help you understand how these criteria relate to your circumstances.