Brexit  What next for EEA nationals living and working in NI

Mary Gavin

06 July 2016

Who knows? There is a significant degree of uncertainty given the results of the referendum on the 23rd June and it will take some time before the government and individuals know specifically where we stand in relation to the rest of the EU.  Whether you voted leave or remain there will be considerable repercussions for years to come, the full extent of which are currently unknown.


But what is in store for European nationals who have made their home in NI? This is an area that is currently unknown but as things stand the legislation governing this issue remains unchanged. The Immigration (EEA) Regulations 2006 apply and interpret the UK's obligations under the Free Movement of Persons Directive 2004/38/EC into domestic law.

Countries that are part of the EEA are known as member states. Nationals of these countries are known as EEA nationals. The member states include countries in the European Union (EU) and also Iceland, Lichtenstein and Norway, who are not part of the EU. The list below shows the EEA member states;


Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Iceland, Ireland, Italy, Latvia, Liechtenstein, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, United Kingdom

On 1 June 2002 the agreement between the European Community, its member states and the Swiss Confederation on free movement rights came into force. The agreement gives Swiss nationals and their family members the same free movement rights as EEA nationals and their family members.


Free movement – what does it mean? 

 The European Economic Area (EEA) is the area in which the Agreement on the EEA provides for the free movement of persons, goods, services and capital within the internal market of the EU.

An EEA national has the right to enter the UK. In order to do so they must show a valid national identity card or passport issued by an EEA state. This right is given under regulation 11 of the regulations. Once admitted to the UK, an EEA national may live here for up to three months under regulation 13 of the 2006 Immigration (EEA) Regulation.

Regulation 14 of the regulations gives an EEA national an extended right to remain in the UK as long as they continue to meet the condition of being a ‘qualified person’.


What is a qualified person?

Under regulation 6 of the Immigration (EEA) Regulations 2006, a qualified person is an EEA national who is in the UK and exercising free movement rights in any of the following five categories:

  • job seekers

  • worker

  • self-employed person

  • self-sufficient person

  • student

If an EEA national is exercising Treaty rights in the UK then s/he may request that s/he is issued with a registration certificate as confirmation of his/her right of residence. Application is made to the Home Office, using application form EEA (QP).  Once an individuals holds permanent residence for 12 months they are entitled to apply for naturalisation as a British Citizen.  If you require any advice on making a EEA (QP) application please contact