Prime Minister Theresa May gave a speech about Brexit at around 11.45am this morning (17 January 2017). This speech was and is considered as one of the most important speeches in May’s capacity as the Prime Minister (PM) of the United Kingdom (UK) as it may finally steer the UK in a clearer direction as to how Brexit will come about. May eased everyone into the speech by referring to the UK’s internationalist culture and political tradition, she then explained why the government is moving forward with Brexit, as prompted by the voice of the people in the referendum on 23 June 2016. May then went onto the main focus of the speech – a 12-points objective framework on how the UK will negotiate an agreement with the European Union (EU) upon formally triggering the exit legal procedures. Unfortunately but yet unsurprisingly, the speech was vague at best and provided the people with little substance of what will happen on almost every aspect. Nevertheless, there are points which should be taken into account in relation to immigration and would help individuals to devise a Brexit immigration strategy in anticipation of Article 50 being triggered.Brexit immigration strategy advice for EEA-nationals from LEXVISA Solicitors
Brexit Immigration Strategy: What did Theresa May comment on?
In May’s speech, she promoted a “fairer, stronger, and more global” Britain and in her 12-points framework, she covered a wide range of issues that will affect the relationship between the UK and the EU once negotiations kick in. These include free trade agreements (the term”free” is used rather loosely here) with the EU and with the wider world, educational and scientific research funding, employment and workers’ rights, taking back control of the UK legal system (e.g. putting an end to the European Courts of Justice jurisprudence), Foreign Affairs in relation to crime and terrorism, providing a stable environment for and freedom of movement i.e. immigration.
So what has been said on immigration? One of the first things mentioned in relation to immigration was that the UK will strive to maintain the Common Travel Area (CTA). The CTA maintains an open border between the Republic of Ireland, the UK, the Isle of Man, and the Channel Islands. This broadly means that if you had leave to enter or remain in one of these areas, you do not normally have to go through border control if you wish to travel within CTA. However, there are exceptions and restrictions applicable, therefore this may not always be the case.
The next thing mentioned in immigration was the PM’s intention to make it a priority to guarantee the rights of EU citizens in the UK and vice versa. However, what exactly she meant by “rights” and whether she was referring to EU citizens with Permanent Residence status or any EU citizen in the UK is yet to be determined. She pronounced that making this the government’s priority is the “fair and right thing” to do but how practically this will be done is yet to be seen. Although May has expressed this intention of prioritising, she further referred to the continuously high numbers of net migration and contrastingly said she will still be working on reducing the number of EU migrants in the UK. Therefore, the position is still unclear.
PM May closed the speech by reiterating that she “wants” a positive outcome from the negotiations, that she is “confident” that her “economically rational” framework is in the best interest of the UK, the EU, and the wider world. She also reassured the UK that she will be taking a “constructive and optimistic approach” in negotiating a unique deal between the EU and the UK to form a new type of “partnership government”. However, she also made it clear that she will not be intimidated by the public or media opinion in her approach, nor by the other Member States. She has the best interest of “Global Britain” at heart and confirms that “no deal is better than a bad deal”.
Brexit Immigration Strategy: How can EEA-nationals prepare?
All in all, the position with Brexit is still unclear but it should not stop you from devising an immigration strategy. There has not been any formal policy proposed or announced and it is unlikely that there will be until Article 50 has been formally triggered. If you are an EEA-national currently in the UK, and you wish to live and/or work in the UK in the near future, you may want to take the following actions as part of an immigration strategy and to obtain documentation that proves your rights in the UK.
- Apply for a Registration Certificate as a “qualified person” exercising Treaty rights in the UK as an EU citizen. If you are working, studying, self-employed, self-sufficient or looking for work in the UK, you may be eligible to apply for a Registration Certification as a “qualified person”. The reason for applying for such a document is that you would have a safeguard and will be more likely be able to prove that you in fact have a right to live and work in the UK. In reality, any sort of free movement or trade deals may take years to negotiate (even though May is “confident” that she can complete the negotiations within the 2 years). In the meantime, you can obtain such document so that it will be easy for you to prove that it is well within your rights to be in the UK. Furthermore, when any kind of new policy kicks in, you will always be benefited if you can provide solid prove of your status in the UK rather than not. Therefore, if you have not applied for a Registration Certificate before, you are recommended to do so.
- Apply for a Permanent Residence card. If you have been residing in the UK for 5 continuous years or above as an EEA-national, you may be eligible for a Permanent Residence document. The Permanent Residence status under the EEA Regulations are very similar to the Indefinite Leave to Remain under the UK Immigration Rules. These statuses would entail that a person will be free from immigration control in the UK and will be free to live and work in the UK either permanently or indefinitely. In most democratic societies, these statuses will not be hastily revoked without good reasons. If you have acquired Permanent Residency status well before any changes are implemented, there is a good chance that you may be able to retain that status even after Brexit.
- Apply for British citizenship. Once you have acquired Permanent Residence status for at least 12 months and have acquired a Permanent Residence card, you may then be eligible to apply for British citizenship. Please note that you do not necessarily have to have had the Permanent Residence card for 12 months in order to be eligible; there is a subtle difference between Permanent Residence status and holding a Permanent Residence card. Needless to say, if you do become a British citizen prior to any formal Brexit changes, it is unlikely that the changes in the future will affect you as you will no longer be considered as a “foreigner”.
One thing to keep in mind though, is that the UK Home Office has been receiving a lot of applications of this kind lately in light of Brexit. Furthermore, the Home Office imposes strict rules on what kind of specified evidence should be provided. Therefore, it is important to get your application right the first time to avoid unnecessary delays, especially in such times of uncertainty. Our experience immigration team can assist you in collating the specified documents and preparing the application for you such that is has the highest change of success. Before you even think twice, you should always seek legal advice and act swiftly if there are anything that you are unsure about.
UK Immigration Strategy Advice and Successful EEA-Related Applications
Our team of solicitors and barristers are specialist immigration lawyers who act in your best interest. We offer a client-tailored approach from the outset. From the very first meeting, we will be able to advise you in respect of your immigration status and the merit of your applications before your matter even reaches the Home Office UK Visa & Immigration department. We can assist you with the preparation of your immigration or visa application and ensure that you meet all the requirements of the relevant rules.
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Preparation is the key to successful immigration applications. Our UK immigration and visa solicitors are here to guide you through the complex immigration rules and requirements. If you wish to meet one of our lawyers, please call our Immigration Team so we can assess your case and arrange your legal consultation.
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