Brexit: Visa options for EU citizens

The UK has voted to leave the EU. European Economic Area (EEA) and EU nationals will have to likely re-assess their visa options. Let’s take a closer look at what a Brexit means for you.Brexit

It’s the first time in the history of the European Union that full membership is being put to a popular vote. With the UK’s EU referendum now less than a week away, both the “leave” and “remain” sides’ campaigns are starting to heat up.

The “leave” campaign has almost wholly focussed on the issue of immigration. Because of this, non-UK citizens who have been living and working in the UK are worried about a potential Brexit. Currently 2.4 million EEA nationals work and live freely in the UK; right now, their future in the United Kingdom is an uncertain one.

What happens to EU citizens now that UK has voted to leave

David Cameron warned Britons that any exit from the EU could severely impact their travel rights and visa options in fellow European countries. But what of EU and EEA nationals living in the UK? After an exit, these nationals could face at least two years of uncertainty as negotiations commence following a leave-vote.

No one, politicians included, is certain how EU citizens will be dealt with should the UK exit. In the week building up to the referendum Sky News Senior Political Correspondent, Sophy Ridge suggested that should the UK leave, EU citizens may be given the opportunity to apply for Indefinite Leave to Remain see below should they qualify.

Another scenario envisaged by Ridge is that EEA nationals would have to apply for a Tier 2 (General) visa. This would limit entry to only skilled workers.

Pundits are still confident that EU citizens and EEA nationals will not be driven from the shores of England. Both leave and remain campaigners were outspoken about keeping the foreign talent the UK has attracted over the last few decades in the country.

However, the status of these people will definitely become more precarious now that the public has voted leave.

Will the Vienna Convention secure the rights of EU citizens living in the UK?

The Vienna Convention was signed in 1969 and it states that any rights acquired under a treaty, in this case the treaties that established the rights of EU citizens to live and work in the UK, will remain in force even if the treaty that created those rights is terminated.

This is a technical interpretation of the treaty and is also dependant on your home country having been a signatory to the Vienna Convention. For instance, Norway and France are not parties to the convention and therefore their citizens would not be eligible to remain in the UK without an appropriate visa.

In addition to this, the treaty only extends to “acquired rights” which do not generally include healthcare and other benefits.

Should you apply for a British passport?

All this uncertainty around what will happen after the “leave”-vote, EU citizens who wish to remain in the UK are exploring all their possible visa and nationality options.

EU citizens who have built their lives in the UK have, according to a survey run by the Guardian, been applying for British passports en masse. These people are chiefly concerned that they may be stuck in an awkward position if the UK leaves. The situation becomes has become even more precarious for those who have built a life in the UK over the course of several years. Having a family in the UK makes certainty on healthcare provisions a major worry.

On top of all this, some European countries do not allow dual nationality. Austria, Denmark, Estonia, Lithuania, Netherlands, Norway, Poland and Slovakia all prohibit dual nationality.

Applying for Indefinite Leave to Remain

If you have been living in the country for more than five years on a visa continuously, you should consider applying for Indefinite Leave to Remain (ILR) as soon as you can.

ILR is granted to those who qualify and, once you receive it, you need only spend twelve months in the UK from the date of issue to be eligible to apply to naturalise as a British citizen. Once you are naturalised, you may apply for a British passport.

Check out this article for more information on ILR. For more information on applying for ILR head here.

Applying for a spouse or partner visa

A lot of EEA nationals are now considering all possible routes to a UK visa. For those nationals that have a long-term British partner, a spouse visa is always an option. This option is not for everyone though and the criteria have been getting tougher and tougher to meet over the last few years. The status of this visa, given the vote to leave, will no doubt come in to question. Be sure to chat to an expert before applying for any visas in the UK.

Visit this page for more information on spouse/partner visas.

Leave or remain, we’re here to help

For over 20 years, 1st Contact Visas has helped EU citizens work and live in the UK. A Brexit will not change that. Our experience will help ensure that you, and your family, won’t be left in the lurch.

Have an obligation free discussion about your visa options with a UK immigration expert by giving us a call on + 44 (0) 20 7759 7527 (UK) or sending an email to

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  • Eric

    Hi, I was wondering if someone could clear something up for me and my wife. Our dream is to move from Canada to England in a few years. Her dad and grandparents were all born in England. Just wanted to ask if the result of Brexit is going to affect us in Canada. Thanks for any help.

    • 1st Contact

      Hi Eric,
      Unfortunately it is not possible to advise how this will effect immigration going forward

    • iam_immigration

      Hi Eric,
      Its unlikely that the Brexit may change your options as your question relates more to UK immigration rules and not EU rules.

  • Giulia S

    my husband and I are EU (Italian) citizens living currently in the US (also dual US citizens). We would like to move to England with our family. Will UK employers grant us UK work visas? Are they more or less likely to look for foreign talent?

    • 1st Contact

      Hi Guilia,
      Nothing has changed in terms of immigration, so you are able to live and work in the UK without a visa.

  • Marco D’Ambrosi

    Good day,
    I am looking at moving permanently to the UK mid 2017 together with my wife and two kids (2 & 5 years). I am presently living in South Africa and was born is South Africa.
    We all have EU (Italian Passports) and for myself I am entitled to a UK Ancestral Visa as My Grandfather was born in Birmingham UK.

    My big question is do we enter with our Italian passport or do we go the UK Ancestral visa route due to the Brexit situation?

    • 1st Contact

      Hi Marco,

      There are a couple of different scenarios with regards to your question, if you wouldn’t mind providing your email address and or contact number one of our consultants will get in touch with you to discuss further.

      • Marco D’Ambrosi

        Hi, My email address is and mobile is + 27 83 638 6226.

        Kind regards

  • dev

    I am an Indonesian student living in The Netherlands. I hold Indonesian passport, but as I live here, I also have a (termporary) residence permits. Do I need visa to go to UK? I’m afraid something has changed after Brexit. Thanks!

    • 1st Contact

      Hi Dev, you would require a visa in order to enter the UK.

  • Ciprian

    Hi, i am EU citizen and live in Uk for more than ten years , with my unmarried partner and my 10 years old daughter And they are both British , im the only one in the family with EU Passaport , my question is,what do i need to apply for if UK live EU ?

    • 1st Contact

      Hi Ciprian, the best option currently would be to look to apply for your Permanent Residence.

  • Pete

    Hi, my wife is an EU national and I am a non EEA national. Though she’s lived in the UK for 11years she had no documentation until we both applied for one. My question is can she still apply for permanent residence after getting her residence certificate? And can I also do same. Since there are so much uncertainties with the brexit vote.

    • 1st Contact

      Hi Pete,

      Your wife will need to show 5 years of living and working continuously in the UK, in order to apply for permanent residency.

      • Pete

        So if she gets a permanent residence now. Can I also apply for same? At the moment am on a 5years uk residence. We all have fears about brexit

        • Pete

          So if she gets a permanent residence now. Can I also apply for same? At the moment am on a 5years uk residence. We all have fears about brexit

          • 1st Contact

            Hi Pete, you will need to have completed your five years of residence before you apply.

        • 1st Contact

          Hi Pete,
          Once you have been in the UK for 5 years living and working continuously you may apply

  • Rob Van Vlijmen

    I am a Dutch national living and working in the UK. Since 1986. I got married (my wife was a British citizen) in 1992 but she has since passed away.
    I am now retired and receive a pension from my ex work place.
    I still got a Dutch passport and wondering what my options are to stay a permanent resident in the UK.
    I was never unemployed and paid taxes and National insurance from the day I entered the UK.
    Please advice, thanks.

    • 1st Contact

      Hi Rob,
      You may apply for a permanent residence card. Please email us on

  • Laura

    Hello, I need a quick opinion. I am Italian and I am actually living in Italy. I just got a job in UK after a skype interview. I am starting in April 2017. Do I need visa to go to UK after March? I am afraid something has changed after Brexit. Thank you.

    • 1st Contact

      Hi Laura,
      You will not need a visa to the UK

      • Laura

        Brilliant. Thank you!

  • iuliana moosa

    Hi john.Im a Romanian citizen and living in South Afica for 15 years .im married with SA citizen and we have 3 kids .
    i want to move to UK my brothers are living there.
    what is the chancence for my husband to get a spouse viza..and for him to be able to work in UK?
    Please email me if you can.

    • 1st Contact

      Hi Iulnana,
      Your husband may apply for an EEA family permit, you can email us on

      • Iuliana Butucel Moosa

        Hi John
        Thank you for your reply on my question
        What documents will I need for my husband to apply for an EEA VISA.