Brexit Debate Triggers Passport Stampede

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Uncertainty prompted by the Brexit debate has resulted in an influx of permanent residence and British citizenship applications from EEA workers.

Brexit is increasing tensions

The Immigration Team at Simpson Millar solicitors has seen a doubling in the number of enquiries from professionals and employees from within the European Economic Area (EEA) seeking reassurance that they will be able to stay should the UK exit the EU.

Emma Brooksbank, Head of Immigration (Leeds) at Simpson Millar says workers who currently have the right to be here want the added reassurance of a British passport:

"The uncertainty caused by an increasingly hostile Brexit debate is driving a large number of people from outside the country to seek permanent residency or British citizenship. We are currently dealing with twice the number of applicants compared with this time last year. That is definitely no coincidence.

"Many of these people are allowed to continue living and working in the UK but they are worried about what the future holds. They want the certainty that a British passport brings.

"Currently, there is no legal reason for many of these people to hold a British passport. But the prospect of a Britain outside the EU is worrying for those who might, in the future, not automatically have the right to live and work here. We are especially advising a large number of people who are married to European citizens but who are themselves from outside the EU."

The permanent residence process and the route to obtaining a British passport have become increasingly complicated in recent years. Applicants now face a 100-page application form which isn’t entirely self-explanatory.

Emma says: "It can be quite hard to understand what is required and the rules are different depending on when people arrived originally, and from where. This is especially the case for nationals of the eight accession states including Polish nationals and Bulgarians, Romanians and Croatians whose countries were subject to labour market restrictions when they first joined the EU. In that period, thousands of people arrived without Worker Authorisation. This makes a permanent residence card application more complicated. A person in this situation should seek specialist advice.

"The process of applying for British citizenship by naturalisation becomes more onerous every year. It used to be relatively straightforward process for people from inside the EU to naturalise. Now they face an extensive application process and must fulfil a series of good character requirements. There is no question that political pressure means the criteria will continue to become more complex. People know this, and it is making them worried."

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