It has been a question that many EEA (European Economic Area) nationals have pondered for years; if I’m residing in the UK do I need a UK Passport or would a European Union Passport be better? There are some agreements and rights within the EU that the UK is not signed up to or have opted out of, such as to which age children are considered dependants and varying degrees of relaxed border programmes. Most recently, the UK government has negotiated a four-year ban on new arrivals from other EU countries obtaining in-work benefits – while the full effects of this remain to be seen, any resulting effect will have a far greater effect on those who migrate to the UK on an EU Passport, rather than a UK passport.
And yet if you obtain or are already the holder of a UK passport you are automatically regarded as a European citizen as well bringing with it all the benefits enjoyed by nationals of the 28 member states. Such benefits include the right to freedom of movement without a visa between EU member states as well as the right to abode and to work in EEA countries.
Family reunification with non-EEA direct family members
However, when it comes to immigration matters, specifically related to non-EEA family route migration, having a British passport or an EU national ID card or passport could make all the difference. Nowadays, when international marriages are of common occurrence globally, those who want their foreign national (non-EEA) spouse to join them in the UK, could be subject to different rules depending on your nationality.
If you are a British national, you must fully comply with tough national Immigration Rules, which is a lengthy and quite costly process. In order to qualify for a spouse visa of a British citizen, for example, strict financial requirements must be met as well as a hefty application fee has to be paid.
This is in stark contrast with EU freedom of movement and residence law, which stipulates that a residence card for a non-EEA spouse of an EEA nationalist a strongly advisable but not compulsory requirement as far as the right of free movements of EEA workers are concerned.
If you are an EEA national intending to settle with your non-EEA spouse in the UK after 5 years of continuous living in the country, both of you need to apply for a document certifying permanent residence for a small fee as low as 65.00GBP. Once you have these documents, you can make an application for a naturalisation as British citizens in accordance with a usual procedure.
In some cases, difference in definition of a “dependent family member” under British and EU law may be of importance. For example, if an EU citizen wishes to bring direct family members from outside the EU, their dependants up to the age of the 21 are eligible to move to the UK to reside with their EU family members. Whereas, under British Immigration Rules, the age for dependants is 18 or under.
British Overseas Territories citizens
There are 14 British Overseas Territories (BOT), which are under the jurisdiction and sovereignty of the United Kingdom, but not part of it. These countries are British Indian Ocean Territory, Gibraltar, Bermuda, the Falkland Islands, South Georgia and the South Sandwich Islands, British Antarctic Territory, St Helena and its dependencies (Ascension and Tristan da Cunha), Montserrat, the British Virgin Islands, the Cayman Islands, Turks and Caicos Islands, Anguilla, the Pitcairn Group of Islands, and the Sovereign Base Areas on Cyprus.
If you are a British Overseas Territories (BOT) citizen, you are still subject to immigration controls, meaning that you don’t have the automatic right to live or work in the UK unless you are a British passport holder. In the same fashion, BOT citizens also are not considered a UK national by the European Union (EU), which brings with it some restrictions as to your movements within Europe. An exception to this are BOT citizens who obtained their status from a Gibraltar connection. Consequently, this particular category can benefit from certain rights of free movement and residence under the EU legislation.