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Online EEA permanent residence and European passport return service now available

Online EEA permanent residence and European passport return service now available

The Home Office has quietly and with no fanfare launched online residence certificate and permanent residence certificate application processes and accompanying European passport return service.

I have put together a 20 minute video walk through of what the permanent residence application service looks like with some commentary which I hope is helpful for those considering whether to use the service.

The video was recorded in October 2016 and the online process has since been updated and improved since then. You can read about the changes here.

About the online EEA application process

The online process is basically an online version of the EEA(QP) or EEA(PR) forms. However, the online versions can only be used by EEA nationals, not by family members, and it cannot even be used by all EEA nationals. Some students and self sufficient people are not allowed to use it:

If you are a student or self-sufficient person you cannot use this form if you are either:

  • reliant on a family member to provide your income, or
  • are financially responsible for other family members

The application is not in truth an online application at all, you discover at the end. You can type your answers and make the £65 payment online, which is convenient, but you will need to print the form and collect and submit originals of the documentary evidence on which you rely. If you use the European passport return service provided at certain local authorities, you can get your passport returned to you while the application is being decided.

Advantages of online EEA application process

eBook EU free movement: guide to making an application in the UK

This clear and accessible guide covers the legal requirements for EU residence documents and the practicalities of making an application including advice on documents and forms.

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The main plus point for the new online service is that an applicant can get his or her passport back by using the passport return service. The only other plus point I can think of is that the online form is easier to use and less confusing than the ridiculously long paper version.

The updates to the online process now mean there is a clear advantage to those relying on employmentto apply for permanent residence. Five years’ of P60s is now considered sufficient to prove employment history and physical presence in the UK for the required period.

When reports of the new service surfaced in the press a few weeks ago, there was talk of the online process being a “fast track” one. In fact there is nothing on the face of the application to suggest that applications made through the online version of the EEA(QP) or EEA(PR) will be decided any faster than other types of application, and it tells you during the process that applications may take up to 6 months to decide.

Disadvantages of online EEA application process

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As I discuss in the video walkthrough, there are some disadvantages to using the online process, arguably even greater than using the paper version of the EEA(QP) and EEA(PR).

The problem with the online versions of the EEA(QP) and EEA(PR) is that all the questions are mandatory. It says as much on the introduction page:

This online application form follows a set structure. In order to proceed through and submit the form, each page needs to be completed. If this approach causes any difficulty, you may wish to use the alternative paper form for your application.

When using the paper form, it was previously possible to leave a question blank if you did not want to complete it. Since 1 February 2017 there is a risk of an application being declared invalid if the form is not “complete”, though: see  Can the Home Office force EU nationals to use the official 85 page permanent residence application form?

If you do not want to disclose every single holiday and weekend city break you may be able to get away with just writing “only ever short breaks of less than 2 weeks, never anything approaching 6 months in a 12 month period” (although you do need to prove 5 eyars continuous residence and qualifying activity). With the online version, you do have to provide all these details, otherwise you will not be permitted to proceed to the next question. And you cannot answer “no” to a question about whether you have been absent from the UK if you have at some point been absent from the UK. You cannot lie.

So, the online version is a more extreme version of the paper form.

Need help?

Here on Free Movement I try to provide information to help people with their own cases. Those interested in making an EU law application may be interested in my ebook guide making an application and the Application Checking Service provided via Free Movement:

eu-application-guide

immigration application checking service

Colin Yeo
Immigration and asylum barrister, blogger, writer and consultant at Garden Court Chambers in London and founder and editor of the Free Movement immigration law website.

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