If there was confusion and uncertainty prior to the 23 June EU referendum, then the eventual Brexit vote has done little to clear anything up. Immigration was a central discussion point throughout the weeks of heated campaigning, with contradictory statements issued by both ‘Leave’ and ‘Remain’ groups, which only added to the tension.
Now, in the calm after the storm, immigration lawyers – including those here at Ison Harrison – are reporting more enquiries from EU nationals in the UK for applications seeking British citizenship. This is an increase which was began even before the 23 June vote, in which, of course, the people most affected weren’t eligible to vote. So far this increase is only based on anecdotal evidence and the next official figures will not be available until May 2017, but certainly at Ison Harrison we have noted an increase from one or two applicants a month, to one every other day. Considering that prior to the Brexit vote EU nationals rarely had a need to apply for British citizenship, it is clear that the outcome of the vote has left many people feeling uncertain over their continuing status.
There are currently 2.9 million people from other EU countries living in the UK and enjoying the free movement that EU membership has allowed them. Certainly there is no immediate threat to their status following the Brexit vote, with Article 50 yet to be triggered and given the expected two-year period of negotiation to decide how the UK will exit the EU, which will follow. However, leading lawyers believe it is unlikely that the status quo will continue indefinitely, and some changes to the current immigration system will inevitably be made. Some experts predict a points system will be incorporated to European workers and students in future and others expecting the Government to apply a cut-off point for applications and then make the application process much more complicated.
Current application process
It is believed some indication of future requirements may come out of the Conservative Party Conference in September. But right now, the two-stage process for Europeans seeking to become British citizens will continue, and Ison Harrison therefore encourage anybody looking to undertake this process to make a start sooner rather than later, given the timescale involved and the increase in applications being experienced. This application process was tightened in November 2015 when a requirement to seek a ‘residence card’ was introduced, itself a daunting process involving an 85-page application form and a £65 fee. But currently the complete process is:
- Obtain a residence card to confirm your status as having lived in the UK for five or more years, exercising rights as a European Citizen
- Prove that the last 12 months of citizenship has been free of any restrictions
- Demonstrate your knowledge of English and pass the Life In The UK test
- Apply for British citizenship
Due to the inevitable bureaucracy of dealing with the Home Office, and the dramatic increase in applications being experienced, such an application can currently take up to six months. Factors in your favour to secure approval are to have complete paperwork, and have no cause for the Home Office to question your good character.
Let Ison Harrison help with your application now
Ison Harrison advise that applicants take some time to get their paperwork together prior to making an application, and this is where the use of a solicitor is important. At Ison Harrison we have a team of experienced immigration lawyers who know the pitfalls of the system, can advise on critical information (such as keeping P60s from previous employment etc) can streamline the process and make it simpler and less stressful for you, and perhaps most importantly, will be considerably cheaper than processing an application through the Home Office.
The application process means there are no refunds at the end of it if you have not been approved, and there is also no right of appeal – only what is called an administrative review – so you need to start the application process again. That’s why we believe it pays to take trusted and sympathetic advice from the outset and get the application right. At Ison Harrison we have the expertise and the dedication to achieve this for you.
Ben Davison, Head of our Immigration department comments as follows:
The outcome of the referendum came as a shock to most and this is likely having a knock on effect of delaying any decisions on how to approach the issue of European Citizens residing in the UK. With so many being productive members of the workforce and with so many Britons living elsewhere in Europe, it’s unlikely the Government will take any strong steps to prevent Europeans remaining here, but there will inevitably be changes eventually, if Brexit does ultimately go ahead. Not having complete certainty of being able to continue living in the country you are in would keep most people awake at night so the numbers taking the step to become British is perfectly understandable.