EU National to Hold Permanent Residence Card Before Becoming British

Well, just because the government has its hands tied on matters of EU law, does not mean it will not try. This week has seen another government attempt to interfere with the EU Free Movement Rights by adding a layer of bureaucracy  to EU nationals looking to become British citizens.

The Law as it has been

According to  EU Law, EU citizens and their family members automatically acquire permanent residency once they have achieved the required 5 years residency requirements.

This in practice meant that an EU national who had been in the UK in accordance with the EU Treaty Rights could apply to naturalise to become British after six years in the UK; this is because he would be deemed to be a permanent resident after five years and the law requires them to have held permanent resident status for at least 12 months.

The Tweak – Law Change

From the 12th of November 2015, any EU national who wishes to apply for British citizenship will be required to apply for a permanent residence card, as introduced by the British Nationality (General) (Amendment No. 3) Regulation 2015.

This change in the law implies that EU citizens and their family members must apply for a Permanent Residence Card before making an application for British citizenship. This application – EEA (PR) Application for a document certifying permanent residence or permanent residence card under the EEA Regulations – has a total of 85 pages, with lots of confusing questions and a cost of £65.

Top Tip: while it would be best to use the application form recommended, the form is not mandatory provided that you pay the fee and provided all of the necessary  information – Please consult your UK Immigration Solicitor if you don’t wish to use the form though.

According to EU Law, EU nationals and their family members acquire permanent residence automatically by operation of EU Law within the EU, without it being necessary to apply for a Permanent Residence Card.

Directive 2004/38/EC regulates the right of citizens of the EU and their family members to move and reside freely within the Member States of the EU. This directive gives EU citizens and their family members – spouse or registered partner; direct descendants under the age of 21; and dependent direct relatives in the ascending line – the right of permanent residence in the host Member State after a five-year period of uninterrupted legal residence, without any other condition.

Whereas not mandatory under EU Law, you can then apply for a permanent residence document, which confirms your rights to live in the country where you now live permanently, without any conditions.


However, with the changes introduced by the British Nationality (General) (Amendment No. 3) Regulation 2015, EU citizens and their family members are now mandated to first apply for a Permanent Residence Card before proceeding with an application for British citizenship.

Compatibility with EU Law

As a UK immigration lawyer dealing with several EU migrant cases I can not help but admire the craftiness of these new changes as the rules, as they manage to not directly affect the EU Law but only deal with the UK Law .i.e. EU Nationals by Law will continue to acquire permanent residence automatically, but if they want to become British then the cross over demands that they comply with the additional requirement of applying for a residence card.

Please feel free to share and comment to raie awareness of these issues. Also, if you have been affected by any of these immigration rule changes and  need a quick chat with a UK Immigration Solicitor, do not hesitate to contact Tito Mbariti for a free one-off, no obligation general immigration advice consultation via either phone, facetime, Skype or Face to Face. 


Tito Mbariti is a solicitor specialising in UK immigration, European Law and Human Rights law at Cross Border Legal Ltd  in Leicester, he has been practising  immigration law for several years with clients from various parts of the globe. He is a strong advocate of Human Rights for all, passionate about voicing important issues affecting migrants and their families in the UK. Tito is the founder and editor of Cross Border Legal, a UK Immigration  and Human Right law blog.


22 thoughts on “EU National to Hold Permanent Residence Card Before Becoming British

  1. Klaude

    Hi..Im Eu citizen…My1 year old son..Is British as his mum she is British citizen…But she is in a coma…Im my partner apointee And my son carer…Lived in Uk without leaving at all…For 5:1/2 years now…Whats my best option .And can they trou me and my son out ..In case the referendum Votes for Brexit…Thank you sou much

  2. Elsa Maria Monteiro

    Hi there I have been live in UK since 2001 until now so it’s almost 16 years, I have never thought to apply British permanent residence coz I hold Portuguese passport. But now referendum had votes for Brexit! How do I apply for British permanent residence?

    Thank you very much for your help

  3. Michala Peterova

    Dobry den mnela bych dotaz jak ziskat resident card.Jsem tady us od roku 2009.Chodim do prace deti mi tady navstevujou skoly us roky.A mam strach jestli odceatuji ze mne us nemusej pustit zpatky.Rada bych tady zila nadale.Dekuji.

  4. Maria

    Hello, I’m from Spain and i have been living in the UK for about 13 years .. I would like to apply for the permanent residence card, do you know which form do I need to use? EEA(pr) or EEA3?
    EEA(pr) is more for family members of European isn’t it?

  5. romina


    I m Italian and I have been living in the Uk since 1999. After 10 years i went back to Italy for 1 year using my ID card not passport. I have now been here for 6 years. Can I apply for the permanent residency card back to 1999?

  6. Jo

    Hello Tito,

    I’ve lived in the UK since 2003 as a Polish national (first on a working visa, then exercising my EU treaty rights). In 2014 I’ve applied for naturalization as British citizen but have been rejected on the basis of a lack of WRS card. I have a son who is a British citizen and was born in the UK in 2012 (British father). In May this year I have found out I have to apply for Permanent Residency card, which I have done and I am now awaiting decision. I have just today enquired if my Life in the UK test and my English certificate (University of Cambridge C1 in Advanced English) issued in 2014 will be accepted with my second naturalization application (providing the permanent residency application is successful) and I’ve been told yes to the LIUK but no to English. Now, I am growing tired of all the hoops I have to jump through and I am getting increasingly put off the naturalization (it seems to me like the UK just don’t want me). My long-winded question to you is – if I do get the permanent residency card, will this be enough for me and my son to be able to stay in the post Brexit Britain, or will I still have to apply for the citizenship? I know you must be inundated with questions from a lot of worried EU nationals, but I would really appreciate if you could shine a light on this muddle of constantly changing legislation. Best regards, Joanna

  7. Linda Tulejova

    Hi I want to ask .. I come to uk about 2004 .. And I never apply for residents card because I think I don’t need . But now I worry what is happening on brexit.. Can you helping. ? And how I apply for resident car ?? Thank you so much 🙂

  8. Nina

    Im a EU national wanting to apply for British citezenship. Do I still need a permanent residence card for applying for citizenship when married to a British citizen? (And have been so for over 5 years)

  9. Paulina Rudzinska


    I am Polish national and I lived in UK since 2004. I have applied for Residence Permit For A National Of A member State Of The EEC and was issued it in 2006. I only needed to prove 12 months of work in the UK. I am wondering if this is the same as permanent residence card ( mine is a paper not a card)?

    Also i have passed Cambridge First Certificate exam, I have done an access course with equivalent to English GCSE and I have achieved BSc (Hon) degree in Midwifery. Will I still need to take on English exam or only Life in UK?

    Kind regards

    Paulina Rudzinska

  10. Katerina

    Hi Tito,
    I am my self in similar situation as everyone else here. I have been living in UK for 12 years (2 as a student and 10 working) no breaks in between apart for business and holiday travel. I am originally from Cyprus, and now terrified with the Brexit results. My husband is Nigerian on an EEA resident permit which expires in Sept 17. I do not know what is the best thing to do for both of us. If I apply for British citizenship I believe he will then lose’s his rights? Also I have been trying to see if I can apply for permanent residency card but the form I found on home office website mentions certificate of permanent residency and not a card for an EEA national. Does the certificate gives me the same rights as a card?

    My biggest fear is that the permanent residency will mean nothing the minute Britain exit EU and by the time my husband get his ILR will be too late for me to get British citizenship. I wonder from human rights point of view how long does a person needs to lawfully live in a county to somehow be entitle to remain? If such as thing exists?

    Been reading this weekend about acquiring rights under the 1969 Vienna convention of the law of treaties but that didn’t at all given me any confidence as did not at any point talked about individuals acquiring rights.

    Your expert advice will be very much appreciated.

    Kind Regards,

  11. Kajol

    Hi, I am an EU citizen. I have Portuguese passport, I have been in UK for 6 years now. I have not applied for Permanent residency yet, I have been a house wife. I am married to British citizen and I have 5 years old daughter with British passport. After this Brexit result I wanted to apply for Permanent residency but I wanted to know which documents do I need to provide that I have been in the country for all these years? I do not have a job and I recently apply for EHIC card. Could I get a permanent residency through my spouse?
    Any suggestions

  12. Jelena Vyglazova

    Hi Tito.

    I need an advice on what document I need to apply for better? I hold EU country citizenship and living in UK for 6 years now. Married to UK citizen and my son holding UK citizenship as well. After Brexit decided to get some document what proves my rights to live and work here. Found 2 what can be applied to me:
    Residence Card (getting in case I will apply for UK citizenship later) and Registration certificate as a qualified person.
    What is the difference and which one would give me more stability in case of divorce, for example?
    We are not planning this, however life sometimes is im-predictable.
    Many thanks for your help in advance.

    With kind regards,

  13. Lucy Brown

    Being married to a Brit makes it worse, I’m Belgian and applied for passport after passing all the tests and being married to a Brit for 5years, having lived in Uk for longer
    Was declined and told if I had married another EU national I would have been granted citizenship. Home office does not do logic

  14. Marcos Bastos

    hi i got Italian passport and i been living here since 2002. How can apply for Permanent residence card? Many thanks marcos bastos.

  15. Piotr

    Hi, I have applied for British Citizenship in 2015. It was refused on a basis that I haven’t completed 12 months WRS. After working for 7 months with one employer I took up self employment wich lasted for about 2 years then I started employment again. When phoned Home Office at these times and was told I did not have to register again because self employed didn’t have to. Also I called them when I started employment again. My application was refused and I lost the money. To apply for permanent residency do I need to have completed WRS for the 12 months with one employer? If yes, why people who moved to the UK after April 2011 can get it and I cannot?

  16. Greg

    Hi, I am German and have been living in the UK for 22 years and am looking to apply for the permanent residence document. In it they ask for a sponsor. Who would that be for me as I don’t have family members that are UK citizens….

  17. Vasile

    I applied for residency on the 28th June 2016, ive mailed all the relevant details but still havent recieved an answer.Can you please help me with this situation as I am soon (28/07/16) dued to be travelling and will be needing my passport to do so.

  18. Angela

    Hi I am German would like to apply for British citizenship. I arrived in the UK in 1979. In 1982 I received a stamp in my German passport confirming that I have “been issued with residence permit No Bxxxxxx valid until April 1985” it is hand signed and dated May 1982 by the Home Office. The passport has since expired and so has the validity of residency. My question is that when applying for the residency card, does this residency number entitle me to request for a ‘renewal’ or should I apply for a ‘new’ residency card?
    Thanks in advance for your advice.

  19. Leon

    Hi jo
    Hope evrything went okay with your application. How long did it take to return your application
    If you don’t mind me asking I have the blue card and I wanna apply for the Permanent residence card but I have some holidays booked and not sure how long will take

  20. Mirela

    Hi Leon, as far as I know you may be able to apply for the citizenship without applying for the indefinite. I’m not sure 100% but one of my friends got it before 2015 without the indefinite
    She told me that because she has the blue card she won’t need it and she got her passport quite quick, 2 weeks time.
    Good luck with everything

  21. Jaro

    Hi , im come to UK from 2004 i have Ánd home office since 2004 i apply eea3 last 2 year ago and is refused Because from 2004 to 2014 .i have gap from employment that why witch eea resident card a Law ? If i am UK from 2004 to now . ? Thanks Any Help me …

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