Since the UK voted to leave the European Union (EU) on 23rd June, there has been a lot of confusion surrounding what will happen to European Economic Area (EEA) migrants currently living, working and/or studying in the UK.
This short note answers some of the main questions that we have been asked by European nationals since the referendum result:
- Can I continue to live and work in the UK now that the UK has voted to leave the EU?
- Will I lose my job now that the UK has voted to leave the EU?
- What will happen to my non-European family members?
- What can I do to prove that I have been living and working in the UK under EU law?
- I feel that I have been the victim of harassment or racist/xenophobic abuse. What can I do about this?
- I am a British national exercising treaty rights in another EU country with my non-EEA family. How will our position be affected?
The position of EU migrants and their family members has not changed as a result of the referendum result.
The UK Government released a statement on 11 July confirming that the status of EU migrants living and working in the UK has not changed and will not change in the near future. Vitally, EEA migrants and their family members should be able to continue to exercise treaty rights to live, work and study in the UK until such a time as negotiations for the UK to officially leave the EU have come to a conclusion. This also holds for British citizens and their family members currently living in other EU countries. The Government has not provided guarantees that EEA migrants in the UK will be allowed to continue to live and work in the UK after the country officially leaves the European Union. They have however indicated that, once the UK officially leaves, they expect, “the legal status of EU nationals living in the UK, and that of UK nationals in EU member states, will be properly protected.” While we do not know what status they will be granted at this point, for now EEA citizens in the UK retain the same rights to work, study and travel that they had before the referendum result.
Once Article 50 has been triggered, the UK has a maximum of two years within which to agree a withdrawal agreement and leave the EU, unless all the other states agree to an extension of time. The new UK Prime Minister will be in charge of negotiations between the UK and the remaining 27 EU member states, to discuss the terms under which the UK will leave the EU. The rights of European Economic Area (EEA) migrants in the UK after a UK exit from the EU will depend on the outcomes of these negotiations. At this time, we do not know what this will look like.
As a European national, can I continue to live and work in the UK now that the UK has voted to leave the EU?
Currently, yes. The UK has not yet officially left the European Union (EU). This will only occur after a likely maximum of two years once Article 50 (the formal mechanism for leaving the EU) is triggered, although this time period can be shortened if the other member states agree to the terms of the withdrawal agreement, or extended upon agreement with the other 27 remaining EU member states. Currently, EEA migrants in the UK can exercise their EU treaty rights on the same terms as before the referendum, until a new agreement comes into force. This includes the right to live, work, study, travel in and out of the UK, and exercise rights as the family member of an EEA national exercising treaty rights in the UK.
Will I lose my job now that the UK has voted to leave the EU?
No. European Economic Area (EEA) citizens currently retain the same rights to live and work in the UK that they had before the referendum result. This will continue at least until the point that negotiations agree the position of EEA migrants in the UK and the UK officially leaves the EU. Therefore, your job should not currently be affected. If you have been told by your employer that you no longer have the right to live and work in the UK, or you have been dismissed or your contract terminated based on the referendum result, this could amount to discrimination and you may also be able to lodge a claim for unlawful dismissal. If you are a member of a Union, you should contact them for legal advice. Alternatively, you can contact your local Law Centre or Citizens Advice Bureau.
What will happen to my non-European family members?
Currently, the rights of your family members remain unchanged. If you are a European Economic Area (EEA) citizen exercising treaty rights in the UK along with your non-EEA family members, they will retain the same rights until such a point that the UK officially leaves the European Union (EU) following negotiations. As above, this is likely to take up to two years from when Article 50 is triggered. The position of non-EEA family members of EEA nationals living in the UK, as with EEA nationals themselves, will be decided during these negotiations with the remaining 27 EU members states. It is not known what the outcome of these negotiations will be. As with EEA nationals living in the UK, British citizens living in other EU countries with their non-EEA family members currently retain the same rights to live and work that they had before the referendum result. This will continue at least until the point that negotiations agree a new deal. However, once the UK does officially leave the EU, it is equally unclear what the position for British citizens and their family members living in the EU will be.
What can I do to prove that I have been living and working in the UK under EU law?
Whatever the outcome of the negotiations it is likely that European Economic Area (EEA) nationals who have been living and working in the UK before the country officially leaves the European Union (EU) will be entitled to some form of ‘leave to remain’ in the UK. The terms and requirements of this grant of ‘leave’ are, however, yet to be decided. Therefore, it may be worth applying for official evidence that you have been exercising treaty rights in the UK. There are a number of ways you can do this, depending on how long you have been living in the UK, and whether you are an EEA national or a family member of an EEA national exercising treaty rights. Apply for a Registration Certificate In order to prove that you have been exercising treaty rights in the UK (as an EEA national, a family member of an EEA national, or an extended family member of an EEA national) it may be worth applying for a Registration Certificate. While this is not a requirement in order to live and work in the UK, it provides a form of proof that the UK Government have officially recognised that you are exercising treaty rights in the UK from a certain date.
- Apply for a Residence Card Although there is no requirement to register, non-EEA family members of EEA nationals should apply for a Residence Card in order to prove their right to live and work in the UK. This is also often necessary in order to provide evidence of permission to work and rent a property.
- Apply for a Document Certifying Permanent Residence Once an EEA citizen has been living in the UK and exercising treaty rights (e.g. studying, working, self-employed or self-sufficient) for five years, they may be eligible for Permanent Residence. This also includes anyone who has been living in the UK as a family member of an EEA national exercising treaty rights in the UK. There is no requirement to apply for Permanent Residence as, if the requirements are met, it is automatically acquired. However, in this climate of uncertainty it would be useful to obtain a Document Certifying Permanent Residence in order to prove the entitlement. Those people with permanent rights of residence in the UK should be entitled to live in the UK even after the UK leaves the EU.
- Naturalise as a British citizen Once you have lived in the UK for six years you may be able to naturalise as a British citizen. This would safeguard any rights to live and work in the UK once the UK officially leaves the EU, as a naturalised British citizen has the same rights as any other British citizen. You must have received a Document Certifying Permanent Residence before making your citizenship application.
Evidence In order to prove that you have been exercising treaty rights in the UK, it would be useful to keep past and future copies of the following:
- Bank statements
- Any contracts of employment for you or your EEA family member
- Payslips in your name, or that of your EEA family member
- Tenancy agreements that show where you have been living and how long.
If you are relying on your relationship with an EEA family member as grounds for living in the UK, such as a spouse, partner, or extended family member, it would be useful to collate evidence demonstrating this relationship, such as:
- Certificate of marriage/civil partnership
- Tenancy agreements where you are both named
- Evidence of living together
- Other evidence of being in a relationship
I feel that I have been the victim of harassment or racist/xenophobic abuse. What can I do about this?
Since the referendum result was announced there have been reports of increased violence and verbal abuse directed at migrants across the country. Any harassment, violence or abuse that targets a person based on their race, religion, nationality or ethnic origins is a hate crime. If you have witnessed or been the victim of a hate crime, you should report it to the police. This is also important so that it is recorded. There are a number of ways to report a hate crime:
- In an emergency always call 999. An emergency is when someone is at risk of getting injured or being threatened, or a crime is being committed
- If the incident has already happened and you are no longer at immediate risk, you can call the non-emergency police number 112
- You can also contact your local police force by calling or visiting your local police station. You can find their details at www.police.uk
- Alternatively, you can report hate crime online: http://www.report-it.org.uk/your_police_force
This factsheet was produced by The Joint Council for the Welfare of Immigrants (JCWI)
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