If the UK votes to leave the European Union on the 23rd of June this year, South Africans with EU passports will need to apply for UK visas or permits.
Over the past few weeks, Breytenbachs Immigration Consultants have been flooded with calls from EU nationals concerned about their future immigration status in the UK.
They have kindly answered these burning questions about our status in the UK in the event of Britain leaving the EU:
Nothing will change. South Africans will be subject to the same UK Immigration laws, and the UK leaving the European Union will not impact you.
Nothing will change You will be able to live and work in the UK as a UK citizen, as you have a UK passport. A potential Brexit will not impact you.
South Africans with EU passports may be impacted in the following way:
Should the UK leave the EU, there will be a chance that EU citizens who are currently in the UK will have to apply for UK visas or permits, under current UK immigration rules.
BIC recommends that concerned EU citizens who are eligible to apply for UK Permanent Residence do so for their peace of mind, and as a possible safeguard.
In the past, EU citizens who have been exercising the EU treaty rights in the UK for six years or longer could apply for UK citizenship straight away.
However, since 12 November 2015, if a person with Permanent Residence in the UK (Indefinite Leave to Remain) wishes to apply for British Citizenship, he or she first has to apply for a Permanent Residence Card.
EEA Nationals and their family members, who have been living in the UK for the required period, are therefore no longer able to apply for British Nationality straight away. They first have to apply for Permanent Residence.
This change in the UK Immigration Rules was introduced by the British Nationality (General) (Amendment No. 3) Regulations 2015.
The application for Permanent Residence is similar to the Indefinite Leave to Remain application. Should the EU citizen be successful in his/her application, it will mean that there are no restrictions attached to the person’s leave in the UK.
To qualify to apply for permanent residence, the following criteria among other things have to be fulfilled:
You must have lived in the UK for a continuous period of five years as:
• An EEA national ‘qualified person’ (worker, self-employed, self-sufficient, student or job seeker),
• An EEA national former worker or self-employed person who has ceased activity in the UK because you have retired, are permanently incapacitated, or you’re now working or self-employed in another EEA state but still retain your residence in the UK.
EU citizens are not required to undertake the Life in the UK test and English language requirement to apply for permanent residence. However, you will be required to undertake these when applying for British citizenship.
Once you have obtained permanent residence, you will be eligible to apply for British Citizenship. You may not be required to wait an additional 12 month period before qualifying, as the UK Home Office should provide the date of when you have been deemed to have received permanent residence.
This means that 12 months from the date you were deemed a permanent resident you will be able to apply for British citizenship, which in some cases is directly after receiving the permanent residence confirmation.
For more information or peace of mind in your unique circumstances, please contact the BIC offices. We have a dedicated team of specialists who can assist.
BIC would like to emphasise the fact that there are no definite decisions yet on whether the UK will leave the European Union.