Holding the status of UK permanent resident means that, as a non-UK citizen, you have the right to live permanently in the UK, without having to exercise your Treaty rights.

Permanent residence refers to your residence status and does not affect your citizenship. If you apply for UK permanent residence as the citizen a non-UK country, then you retain that country’s citizenship. You do not become a UK citizen through permanent residence.


EEA nationals automatically gain permanent residency after 5 continuous years in the UK exercising Treaty rights. To evidence your status, you will need to apply to the Home Office for a permanent residence card.

Benefits of being a UK permanent resident

  • You have access to healthcare, pensions, and other social benefits, and are not subject to immigration restrictions. Although you may travel abroad, you may not spend longer than 2 years outside the UK. If you do, your permanent residency may be withdrawn.

  • You may also be eligible to vote if you are an EU or qualifying Commonwealth country citizen.

Limitations of permanent residence

  • To maintain your UK permanent residence, you must spend no longer than 2 years outside the UK, maintaining ties to this country and considering it as your home.

  • The right of permanent residence may also be withdrawn at any time on the basis of public security, public health, or public policy.

UK permanent resident to British citizen

  • A primary benefit of holding UK permanent resident status is the ability for EEA nationals to apply for British citizenship. Since November 2015, EU citizens have been required to provide documentary evidence of their permanent residence status in order to apply for British citizenship.

  • The British Nationality Act 1981 states that to apply for British citizenship, a person must be free from immigration restrictions and must have possessed UK permanent resident status for a minimum of 1 year.

  • The exception is where the individual is married or in a civil partnership with a British citizen. In which case, they may apply to naturalize as soon as they receive their permanent residence card.

Eligibility for UK permanent resident status

Eligibility for UK permanent resident status relies on two main factors:

• continuous residence in the UK for a period of 5 years

• that during those 5 years you exercised at least one of the Treaty rights continuously or that you are a family member of a person who has fulfilled the above Treaty rights.

Derivative Right of Residence

  • However, a person who has a derivative right of residence is not eligible for UK permanent resident status.

  • A derivative right of residence may be granted to persons in the following circumstances:

    • the primary career of an EEA national under 18 years old and living in the UK as a self-sufficient person who would not be able to remain in the UK if their primary career left the UK indefinitely.

    • the applicant has at least one parent who is an EEA national living in the UK or having lived in the UK in the past. Both the applicant and their EEA national parent must have lived in the UK at the same time, the parent must have been a worker in the UK, and the applicant is in education in the UK.

    • the primary career of a person who meets the above category (1 EEA parent living in/lived in the UK, that they lived in the country at the same time as their parent who was a worker in the UK, and are in education in the UK) and that the person whom they provide care for would be unable to continue their education in the UK if their primary career left the UK for an indefinite time.

    • primary career of a British citizen who lives in the UK, and that the British citizen would be unable to live in the UK or any other EEA state if their primary career left the UK for an indefinite time.

    • under 18 years old, doesn’t have leave to enter or remain in the UK under the Immigration Act 1971, their primary career is eligible for a derivative right to reside in the UK, and their primary career would not be able to live in the UK should the applicant leave the UK indefinitely.

•In this context, a primary career is a legal guardian or direct relative of a person in their care, where they have a primary or shared responsibility for that person.

Brexit and UK permanent resident status

The UK government is proposing to introduce a new ‘settled status’ for EU citizens living in the UK post-Brexit. The details are yet to be formally agreed as part of the Brexit negotiations, and the proposals must then be passed into UK law by Parliament.

Under current proposals, the government is assuring that EU citizen who currently holds UK permanent resident status may transfer it to settled status free of charge once the new system is in place.

Under the current proposals for settled status:

• Persons who have been continuously and lawfully living in the UK for 5 years by 31 December 2020 may apply to stay in the country indefinitely under ‘settled status’ and later apply for British citizenship if they wish.
• Persons who arrive in the country by 31 December 2020 but have not lived continuously and lawfully in the country for 5 years when the UK leaves the EU, may remain here until the 5-year period is reached, and then apply for settled status.
• Family members living with or joining EEA nationals in the UK by 31 December 2020 will be eligible to apply for settled status when they have lived here continuously and lawfully for 5 years.
• Where their relationship already existed on 31 December 2020, close family members may join EEA nationals living here after the UK leaves the EU.