Rights of residence – should you ‘bank’ your status while you can?
The threat of deportation faced by children of Commonwealth citizens lacking official paperwork who had lived and worked in the UK for decades provides a sobering lesson to all those who are internationally mobile: there is a considerable merit in ‘banking’ status whilst one can.
When there is currently no specific deadline, the immediate pressures of life make it tempting to put off dealing with officialdom. Tomorrow – or next week, or next year – seem to do as well as today. However the position of some of the children of the Windrush generation, and the implications of Brexit for UK and EU citizens, are two current striking examples of the advisability of getting paperwork in good order as soon as all key requirements have been met. This imperative applies to anyone who has to tangle with an immigration system, UK or elsewhere.
The detailed immigration rules that will apply to EU citizens living in the UK post Brexit and, just as importantly, to UK citizens living in one of the remaining EU states have yet to be settled.
The UK has made much of its offer to allow EU citizens to be able to continue to live and work in the UK with no change to their rights until 2021 and thereafter the ability to apply for settled status under a scheme to be established by March 2019.
EU citizens exercising EU treaty rights of free movement in the UK have an existing right (but have generally not bothered) to obtain a permanent residence card after five years, but this card will not be valid after December 2020 and they will have to apply for settled status if they are to remain. There may be up to three million EU citizens who will need to register for settled status.
What may be less widely known is that such EU citizens can apply for the permanent residence card by proving six years residence and can virtually simultaneously apply for British citizenship as well.
The key point about obtaining British citizenship is that it guarantees the right of return to the UK into the future. Settled status confers a right of residence without work restrictions but is, in principle, lost if a person leaves the UK to reside abroad for more than two years. This can be vital for mobile individuals who are currently working in the UK but who may be required to relocate to work abroad in future, for example in another European financial centre.
UK citizens resident elsewhere in Europe may also want to examine whether they can secure their status in their chosen country of residence.