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BLOG: Swedish born Lina B Frank talks about Brexit and her experience applying for permanent UK residency

Brexit, brexshit, national liberation whatever you wanna call it is affecting us all in various ways, some of us more than others already.

I'm Swedish born and have lived 18 years in the UK, I'm fiercely independent and not very comfortable with dependency, so when I heard the referendum announcement after the elections in 2016 I decided to not wait for that rainy day but instead get ahead of the game.

Theatre Bristol has asked me to share some of what I have discovered to help others.

This is in no way a comprehensive guide, it’s what I have picked up through a lot of research and what seems to work for others going through these processes….

Facts:
As of today march 2017…

An EU citizen is anyone with a passport from a country with EU membership - including England/UK. Also referred to as EU national - it's the same thing.

An EEA citizen is anyone with a passport from a country in the European Union as well as the European Economic Area, which the EU is part of as well as a couple of countries like Norway and Iceland (who are not EU members).

The legal status of EU/EEA citizens to travel work live in the UK has not changed yet.

The legal status does not automatically change once Article 50 is triggered either, but it being triggered is a prerequisite for anything changing all. Meaning nothing can change until Article 50 is triggered. Rather annoyingly it is in a lot of people's interest that negotiations take a loooooong time. Just think how few legal fees will get paid in relation to how many if the process takes 2 years or 10 years…. Yep.

Once Article 50 is triggered the UK and EU will start bargaining for real. Only after the bargaining has happened can/will the status of EU citizens in Europe travelling to or from the UK change.

Currently there are two options for EU citizens wishing to prove their right to live and stay in the UK permanently; Permanent residency (PR) and Citizenship. Both require you to have resided in the UK for 5 years or more.

EU/EEA citizens should not apply for Indefinite Leave to Remain (ILR). ILR is for non-EU citizens.

My educated guesses:
Whoever says there is no cause for concern and you shouldn't worry about your status to continue your life in the UK as it is now 10 years from now, is either a privileged bastard or a hippie. Meaning: they're either undermining your cause for concern as it doesn't affect them, or they're very OK with uncertainty about their own/your situation.

This article from now on is for people, who like me, prefer to try and feel in control of their own situation and make sure they don't get deported because say “they didn't realise they needed CSI" (CSI not covered in this blog - if you're a student look it up).

Permanent residency aka PR:
If you are an EU citizen and you have lived in the UK for 5 consecutive years and not left the country for any period of 6 months or more during that 5 years you are eligible to permanently reside in the UK. This does not give you citizenship, but it does set you apart from other free movement travellers as you have effectively proved your (at the moment given) right to stay and the the certificate means home office has accepted that as truth.

People I talk to have different stance on this: some say keeping below the radar and not giving the home office the chance to ask questions keeps you safer. I say prove your right if you can. You don't lose anything more than a bit of time and £80. The PR application is £65 online and then it costs around £10 to use the passport check in service to send it off (more info on this below). It also means that if a situation arises where suddenly you need to prove your right of residence in the UK at the borders, you have this document to prove it immediately. Or say if you are applying for a job and they are asking for your right to work in the UK (even though technically they don't need to, but there are a lot of stories floating around of this happening) then you can produce this document phaff-free.

People talk about this nightmare 85 page application - it's click bait as far as I can see. The form changed about 6 weeks ago and the online form now literally takes 5 mins (I've done it). You pay online. Then you print the application and send it off with your documents. I have actually congratulated the home office on a super straightforward form and instructions. It tells you exactly what you need to do.

Evidence you absolutely need:
- Two passport photos
- Hard copy of application form and checklist (you print this at the end of online form)
- Valid passport
- Proof that you have lived in the UK for the relevant qualifying period such as P60s, utility bills, employer letter, bank statements, council tax (or equivalent) bills, NHS (or equivalent) letters, letter from child's school, mortgage or tenancy agreements (it says in the guidance notes that you need at least 1 document per year of your qualifying period).
- Evidence that you are self-employed, such as tax self-assessment forms, proof of payment of class 2 or 4 national insurance contributions, invoices for work done, business accounts or business bank statements (guidance note say you need at least 1 document per year of national insurance evidence and at least 2 per year of invoices, statements, receipts, contracts).

If you are employed obviously you can use contract, letter from employer, payslips etc.

Each proof does not need to cover the whole period, you can mix and match. The important thing is that they collectively prove you were not away for say more than 6 months (travelling Asia or working abroad) as unfortunately that means you lost your right to reside for that period and you start counting again 5 years from when you re-entered the country….

As far as I can see this is the main reason people’s applications are being rejected, regardless of if they have lived here 5 or 30 years (and those situations are what the press use as click bait to create concern in our community).

So, I arrived in the UK 18 years ago - I do not need to prove that whole period. I only need evidence for the qualifying period ie. the last 5 years. Obviously you can submit more if you like. I think it's unnecessary and your application will just take longer to process. Stick to simple.

The easiest way I could think to do this was to order 5 years of bank statements from my bank, which was really simple over the phone and free. Order statements of tax and national insurance paid to HMRC and throw in a few scattered bills for good measure. I wrote a cover letter which said I studied in the UK at university, highlighted my contribution to cultural life, in particular voluntary engagements contributing to the UK economy in kind. I also have 3 letters of support from people who advocate my value to the UK. A friend, an employer and a person with an official title. I have seen people getting their local MP’s to write them letters of support which seems to be very effective.

You find the link to the online form here

You don't need to send your passport off, you post the application with its evidence from what's called a “passport check in service” usually at the council which effectively means they certify a copy and send your documents off in a big bundle. Big minus is there isn't a passport check in in Bristol. You can find the whole list HERE. Scroll down the page and select your UK region to bring up relevant lists.
It says you need to book an appointment, but that’s also not true of a lot of them as they have opening times, call to find out.

Citizenship - same conditions as above, but the period is 6 years not 5. I will not go into this in this blog as it is much more complicated, costly and also I personally haven’t done it. Also, different countries have different laws for dual citizenship. Some people lose their native citizenship if they acquire a British one. If you acquire a permanent residency certificate that does not affect your citizenship in your native country.

Most of this info I got from 3 facebook groups:

1.    The first thing I recommend is to join the Facebook group of your countrymen. I’ve joined Swedes in Great Britain (Svenskar i Storbritannien) which has been a great source of just asking questions and sharing concerns.
2.    The next group is called Eu Citizens in the UK and British EU Citizens abroad  This is a great group to ask general questions and share advice and experiences. It’s also for UK migrants and their rights to stay etc.
3.    The most hardcore group is Citizenship European Nationals. In this group lawyers volunteer their time for more difficult questions and problems. There is zero tolerance in this group for asking stupid (already answered/simple) questions as the time of these lawyers in kind is greatly valued. A great group to keep an eye on.

The other thing I have learnt is that there are sometimes ambiguities in the forms as it's a new process so not foolproof. If you find yourself in a situation where you don’t know how to answer a question in the form you then need to clarify this in the cover letter, which seems to be sufficient.

Hope this helps to calm some nerves :)

Lots of Love

Lina B.

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