***Dear readers, while we believe most of the information contained here still applies, as of 1st September 2016 our office in Benicarlo closed, at least for now, enabling us to focus on our work in the UK. All outstanding enquiries will be answered! Please follow Olga’s blog at www.immigrationpolicy.org.uk for any future updates on post-Brexit policy developments.***
We are Darya and Olga, fellow Brits (originally from Russia), now with a home in Benicarlo, Castellon, Spain. Our company in Spain, which is a branch of World Without Borders — a relocation business we have successfully run in the UK, Russia and the US — is dedicated to helping fellow Brits who have decided to embark on the Surinder Singh route – a way to bring your relatives back to the UK under EU Free Movement law.
Olga is a well-known immigration policy blogger and OISC-regulated immigration advisor in the UK, and Darya is her oldest daughter and faithful assistant, who is now coming into her own as a relocation consultant. We both speak enough Spanish to get by, and have largely for this reason chosen Spain as a base for our Surinder Singh venture.
Our home and office are in a small seaside town of Benicarlo, Castellon, on the very northern outskirts of Comunidad Valenciana, and for those who turn to us for a complete solution, this is where we are likely to offer you property, through local networking with fellow expat property owners.
However, we work with expat British community all along the coast from Alicante to Barcelona, and can provide consultation and at least some assistance to all those interested in Surinder Singh from farther afield. We also, though our EU clients who have moved to the UK but have property back home, have the ability to put you in touch rentals in Latvia and Lithuania, if you should chose them as your Surinder Singh destination.
So, what is Surinder Singh and how can it help you? How can WE help you?
If you are a Brit and you already live in Spain or elsewhere in the EU, chances are you are aware of the main principles of the Free Movement. Based on the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union (Lisbon Treaty), and the Free Movement Directive 2004/38, any EU citizen can live, work and study in any other EU state, if they so desire — and, in addition to that, they can bring their family with them, without ANY requirements as to income, or English knowledge. This includes family members who are NOT EU citizens themselves, including spouses and partners, children or stepchildren under 21, and relatives on the ascending line, of either yourself or your spouse, who were financially dependent on you (or your spouse) prior to exercise of Free Movement.
The right to Free Movement of EU nationals and their family members is enshrined in the UK in our own domestic legislation, known as Immigration (EEA) 2006 regulations. It has been updated numerous times, most recently in 2015.
Links to full text of the TFEU, Free Movement Directive and EEA 2006 Regulations in PDF in English are available on this page: http://immigrationpolicy.org.uk/resources
EU Free Movement rights are less restrictive than our own domestic UK immigration law, which never allowed us to sponsor children over 18, and has, since July 2012, severely restricted immigration by spouses of Brits, now subject to elaborate financial requirements, and virtually eliminated immigration for parents and grandparents.
The disparity it creates is well known and indeed has caused much discussion in the UK in recent years, as we all know that anyone from the EU can move to the UK (and quite many have done so, which is what mainly has now cause the Brexit). In practice, EU citizens and their non-EU family members can move to the UK under the Free Movement rules, on conditions much more liberal than those that exists for Brits and their relatives. This creates particular difficulty in families with one British spouse that have, for years, lived overseas and now wish to return to the UK, especially where the couple or the British spouse, are now retired.
Surinder Singh is a name of the court case which established the right of those British citizens who have once exercised their treaty rights in another EU state, potentially residing there with non-EU family members under Free Movement law, to return to the UK and bring back their family members, again, under Free Movement law, based on the (very simple) requirements that exist for Europeans, as opposed to complex and restrictive requirements in UK immigration law.
Most of the rights arising under Surinder Singh are now easily recognised by the Home Office, and indeed written into the Regulations (see Regulation 9). The UK Home Office readily recognises Singh rights where the sponsor at one point worked or was self-employed in a member state (but not resided there as self-sufficient resident or a student). It also applies a “center of life” test to the sponsor’s resident in the host state.
Some additional provisions of Surinder Singh based rights have been addressed by ECJ recently in a case known was O and B v. Netherlands – including that the court ruled that those who resided in a member state as self-sufficient or students should be afforded the same rights. The latter is not yet recognised by the Home Office and whether or not it can be compelled to alter policy before any long-t5erm effects of Brexit render the question moot, is unclear. Those wishing to avail themselves to a Surinder Singh route are therefore advised to gather evidence of work or self-employment in a member state, no matter how long ago it took place, or engage in such activity now. The courts ask that economic activity should have lasted at least 3 months before a return to the country of citizenship is sought under Singh rules.
***If you do not know much about Surinder Singh route, but would like to find out, a decent e-book, written by a celebrity immigration blogger and barrister Colin Yeo, written for non-lawyers and describing all the main details of the scheme, is available in a PDF format at https://www.freemovement.org.uk/downloads/surinder-singh-eu-free-movement-for-british-citizens/ (we did not read it, but we trust Colin and don’t have time to write our own!)***
So, how can we help you?
For those already living in Spain with a non-EU spouse, who wish to plan their return to the UK or receive a qualified immigration consultation on possibility and requirements for such return, we can provide that. We can also evaluate scenarios on bringing along yours or your spouse’ elderly relatives currently living overseas, as well as children over 18. We can evaluate the case for a visa-free entry to the UK, or provide representation in a EEA Family permit application where feasible. Olga will be also able to provide future in-county legal assistance with a Residence card application and/or any Immigration Tribunal appeals, if any of this ever arises, especially with a view to possible suspension of Free Movement in the UK in near future.
For those only considering embarkation on their Surinder Singh journey, we can provide advice and support at every stage of the process. We speak Spanish and can help you find property for rent (or purchase, if you are interested) in Spain, open a bank account, organise your utilities and services, help you register with immigration and tax authorities, and, if relevant, set up your business. We can also help you with Spanish classes and to enrol your child(ren) in an International school here, where there will be classes in English. We can then help you gather and prepare the documents necessary for your non-EU family members return to the EU, including any applications you may have to file with UK government. FAQ section will provide more details.
You need to consider that as a consequence of the Brexit decision, some risk exists that after the Tory leadership election in September 2016, the new government may take steps to abruptly curtain free movement rights to those not yet enjoying them in the UK. This may mean a range of measures, but Surinder Singh has been, specifically, a target of Cameron’s “renegotiation deal”, which the government planned to limit even if the Remain won — so, in any set of measures, there will be some impact on this route some time before end of this year . We therefore recommend that, where at all possible, at least one the following should be accomplished, in this order of priority, by middle of September the latest:
Where at least 3 months of economic activity in a host state have been completed
- The non-EU family member, is residing with sponsor in the host state, returns to the UK and files a Residence card application there
- If not all of the above, then at least the same family member, if realistically eligible, enters the UK specifically under Surinder Singh, in a status as a non-EU family member of an EEA citizen — evidenced by admission based on the Spanish residence card, or visa-free through Calais and a relevant “EEA Regulations” stamp
- Any family member clearly unable to realistically enter through Calais or not already residing in Spain (please note, spouse/partner has to reside in a host state with the sponsor, while ascending relatives and children over 18 can be in a 3rd country), file an EEA Family Permit application based on Surinder singh route
In other words, trigger action that will call upon the UK government to recognised you as a family member under the Free Movement directive before any such time that it may suspect the application of the Directive.
4. At least start your exercise of Treaty rights in another EU country, including establishment of home, registration with authorities, and start of economic activity, before BEGINNING of September.