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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.

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

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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.

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). For those new to this subject, read this earlier blog post. In short, it is not mandatory to use any particular application form or process when applying under EU law for residence documents. You may use a covering letter or an old version of the forms if you like, as long as you enclose sufficient proof that you are qualified and you make the required payment of £65.

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, you can leave a question blank if you do not want to complete it. There is nothing wrong with not answering a question; what you must NEVER do is provide information that is wrong, though.

For example, if you think the questions on the paper version of the EEA(PR) form about war crimes or terrorist activities are silly, you do not have to answer them. If you do not want to disclose every single holiday and weekend city break you do not need to fill in all the details on absences from the UK (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. I often advise clients not to use the EEA(PR) because it is long, complex, intrusive and asks unnecessary questions. At least with the paper version, though, you can ignore questions if you want to. The online EEA(PR) does not even allow that.

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
A barrister specialising in UK immigration law at Garden Court Chambers in London, I have been practising in immigration law for 15 years. I am passionate about immigration law and founded and edit the Free Movement immigration law blog.

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