After the UK decided to leave the EU, the number of applications for Residence Permit cards surged, as EEA nationals who have been living in the UK for the past five years or more sought to have their right to live permanently in the UK endorsed "on paper".
In an attempt to streamline the application process, the Home Office has recently launched a new online service allowing applicants to fill in the EEA(QP) and EEA(PR) application forms and pay the application fee online (although the new online service cannot be used by students, self-sufficient persons and EEA nationals who rely on a family member for financial support or who are financially responsible for any other family member).
The key improvement introduced by the new service is the passport return service. Local authorities or nominated premium service centres can photocopy the applicant's EEA or Swiss passport and forward a copy along with the checklist and application to the Home Office for processing. (The Local authorities or nominated premium service centres are not, however, allowed to provide advice on how to complete the application). This means that the applicant may continue to use their passport while the application is under consideration with the Home Office.
Apart from this, however, the original process remains more or less intact. The application form and supporting documentation requirements remain unchanged, and the new service does not make the application process any faster. In addition, although the application can be completed online, it still has to be submitted in a printed version together with the originals of the supporting documents.
The highest number of application refusals result from deficiencies in the supporting documentation and mistakes made on the application form. The new service does little to reduce the complexities of the application and many applicants will continue to seek the help and advice of solicitors in order to maximise their chances of success.