On 21 September 2016, following the Brexit vote the Home Office probably due to a surge in postal applications, introduced an online application process for EEA and Swiss nationals for either a residence certificate or for permanent residence - the aim of which, was to provide a facility where an applicant could retain their passport if certified by an approved body and thereby enable them to still lodge a valid application.
On 18 November 2016, following its successful trial, a ‘new’ service was launched – which provides the same service as in the trial, but now identifies which local authorities and premium service centres participate.
Potential applicants need to appreciate that the new online and existing postal service are broadly similar – the application procedures in terms of providing information, documents required and waiting times are the same and importantly - there are no assurances that the application will be successful, by opting to use the new online route.
Where the new online service does have merit, is that an applicant does not have to surrender his passport, which has obvious benefits – particularly for permanent residence applications, as up to that point there was no other option but to send the passport or a ID card.
The Home Office does operate a separate ‘same day’ service process, whereby an application can be submitted in person for a residence certificate and the decision is made on the same day which avoids the applicant having to surrender their passport for any period of time. However, in our experience it is quite difficult to secure a same day service appointment, as the Home Office release relatively few slots which unsurprisingly are in high demand –you will be lucky to secure one.
The postal route does have a facility for an applicant to request their passport back within 10 working days or earlier, if there is a good reason. However, making the request does not guarantee that the passport will be returned within these time frames - our experience is that it varies and can take up to six weeks.
The online application process requires an applicant to complete an online form and then attend a prearranged appointment with a participating centre within five days and pay a fee. The applicant must take their passport – ID cards cannot be presented, a printout of the online application form and an accompanying generated checklist. The participating authority can check and forward these and the copy of the passport. However, the onus is then on the applicant to send all the other supporting documents to the Home Office.
There are some important caveats, the participating centre cannot provide advice, check to see that the application has been completely correctly or ‘guarantee’ success, as stated above.
The facility should be considered by those who fly frequently or simply need to retain their passport and cannot afford to surrender it for ‘any’ period of time.
As the Home Office can legally take up to six months to consider such applications, it is very important that applications are completed correctly, satisfy all the legal requirements and have the correct supporting documents to ensure a successful outcome.
It is also important to note that the online service is only available for residence certificates and permanent residence applications – it is not available to non EEA & Swiss national family members.
RLegal specialist immigration solicitors have many years of experience of dealing with applications for EEA family permits, residence certificates and permanent residence. Please feel free to contact us for advice and assistance by completing our online form or by sending an email to firstname.lastname@example.org or by telephoning us on +44 207 038 3980.