What is permanent residence?
Permanent residence is when non-British citizens are granted the right to live, work and study in the UK while still holding a foreign citizenship and passport. Permanent residence holders are able to leave and enter the UK without restriction.
Provided you meet the qualifying conditions to acquire permanent residence, you can apply to the Home Office for a permanent residence card (PRC).
Permanent residence is effectively the same as Indefinite Leave to Remain. Holders become entitled to apply for naturalisation, or British Citizenship, after 12 months of permanent residence, provided you meet the requisite criteria.
Who is eligible to apply for permanent residence?
Your eligibility for permanent residence will depend on the type of visa you hold:
|Visa type||Qualifying period to apply for Permanent Residence|
|EU nationals and dependants||After 5 years|
|Partner of a British Citizen or person settled in the UK visa||After five or ten years if applied on or after 9 July 2012, after two years for visas issued prior to 9 July 2012|
|Tier 1 visa||After five years|
|Tier 2 visa||In limited circumstances only, after five years|
|UK ancestry visa||After five years|
|Retired Person visa||After five years|
|Discretionary Leave to Remain||After six years|
|Long residence||After ten years continuous legal residency in the UK|
|Returning resident||If settled in the UK prior to departure and returning to the UK within two years of departure, then may be able to apply immediately on return|
Across all visa types, you will need to be free of any unspent convictions to be eligible to apply.
It is also advisable in the 12 months leading up to your application, to aim not to be outside the UK for more than 90 days, and no more than 180 days in any prior consecutive 12-month period.
During the relevant qualifying period, you must have undertaken certain qualifying activities in the UK, i.e. you have been/are a:
- student; or
- self-sufficient person.
You will be required to evidence your qualifying activity as part of your permanent residence application.
How to apply for a permanent residence card
There are two main elements to the application:
- Application form
The application form is extensive – currently 85 pages long. It is important to ensure you complete it correctly to avoid potential delays with your application – or worse, a refused application.
You have the choice to complete the form online or in paper form. If you opt for the online version, you will also have to print, sign and submit a paper copy to the Home Office. This will accompany your supporting documentation (see point 2).
When completing the application form for permanent residence, you will also be required to pay the Home Office fee of £65 per application and provide biometric information. Currently the Home Office advise that most applications take four to six months to be processed. The waiting time for appointments for a same-day decision is between four to six weeks.
- Supporting documents
Along with the application form you will need to collate and submit documentary evidence to confirm your status.
The documents you submit will depend on your specific circumstances and the nature of your activity and immigration status during the qualifying period.
For example, if you have been employed, you will need to supply wage slips and bank statements, and self-sufficient people and students will need to show that they have had comprehensive medical insurance for the duration.
Permanent residence application refusal
If your application for permanent residence has been refused, you will be given the option to appeal, or you may make a new application.
Your next step should depend on your particular circumstances, and you would be advised to seek professional advice on which course of action is most appropriate for you.
Permanent residence validity
Permanent residence holders are able to live, work and study in the UK on an indefinite – permanent – basis, free from immigration restrictions.
However, spending periods of more than two years outside the UK could put your permanent residence status at risk.
Permanent residence may also be revoked if you commit an offence that could lead to you being deported from the UK, or for reasons of national security.
Permanent residence for EEA citizens
Before EEA nationals can apply for British citizenship, under the current UK immigration rules they must first hold permanent residence status for a minimum of 12 months.
Ahead of Brexit, we can expect changes to the rules affecting the immigration status of EEA nationals in the UK. The specific nature and timings of the changes are as yet to be confirmed by the UK Government.
However, since permanent residence is a prerequisite for EU nationals seeking to become a British citizen, many are applying for a permanent residence card to confirm their enduring right to reside in the UK.
Permanent residence and non-EEA dependants
In most cases, where non-European family members have lived with an EEA citizen in the UK over the course of the last 5 years, they will also be eligible to apply for a permanent residence card.
‘Family members’ include children, spouses and civil partners.
Extended family members of EEA nationals can also apply, subject to further criteria.
Why it is important to use a UK immigration solicitor:
- The permanent residence application process is easy to get wrong. More than 25% of applications are refused. The form is long and complicated, and it can be difficult to know which documents are needed to support your application. Avoid delays and lost application fees.
- Is permanent residence the best option for you and your loved ones? There are a range of potential immigration and settlement options available. Consider all of your options based on your specific circumstances to ensure you make the right decision.
- Changes in immigration rules affecting EU citizens are on the horizon. It will be important to understand what the new immigration system, once proposed, will mean for EEA nationals in the UK.
Anne Morris, Managing Director of DavidsonMorris Solicitors, is an Immigration Solicitor based in London with offices in Aberdeen and Cambridge. DavidsonMorris specialises in Business Immigration.