The Surinder Singh route: British citizens and their family members returning to the UK from another EU member state.
‘Surinder Singh’ is an immigration route that allows British citizens who have moved to another EU country to return with non-European family members allowing them to effectively bypass stricter UK immigration rules on family visas applying to people who have not exercise their rights under free movement.
This particular route owes its name to a significant European Court of Justice (ECJ) case: R v Immigration Appeal Tribunal and Surinder Singh (1992) which provided that if an EU citizen has exercised EU Treaty Rights in another member state for three months or more, their EU Treaty Rights would be triggered when they return to their home state e.g. the UK. That enabled those people to apply for an EU family residence card under for their non-EU family members to come and live with them in the UK.
The Surinder Singh principle has been reaffirmed in recent ECJ cases most notably in the case of O v the Netherlands (2012). That case confirmed that a period of residence of three months or more in the host member state would be required prior to the EU citizen returning to their home state. The Home Office has recently updated its guidance on Surinder Singh cases to remove reference to the previously restrictive ‘centre of life’ test following the ruling in ZA (2019) UKUT 281 (IAC). Further changes provided that the Surinder Singh principle could be exercised to cover extended family members of British citizens following the ECJ case of Banger ECJ C-89-17.
The Surinder Singh route has always been a bit of a nuisance for the Home Office who has had to grapple with expanded definitions, rulings impacting the application of unlawful criteria, and now the route forms part of the EU Settlement Scheme as the UK starts to free itself from the benefits of free movement.
Appendix EU and the EU Settlement Scheme
A set of new immigration rules applicable to European nationals known as Appendix EU, updated on 30th March 2019 includes rules applicable to family members of British citizens who have lived in another EU member state and wish to return to the UK. It is important to note under Appendix EU it is not necessary for a British citizen to exercise Treaty rights (i.e. to be a qualified person) once in the UK. The reference to a ‘qualifying British citizen’ throughout Appendix EU refers to Surinder Singh applicants who have been residing in another EU member state prior to making their application.
A family member of a qualifying British citizen can get settled or pre-settled status if they are:
‘’…in the UK lawfully by virtue of regulation 9(1) to (6) of the EEA Regulations, regardless of whether in the UK the qualifying British citizen is (or, as the case may be, for the relevant period was) a qualified person under regulation 6 of the EEA Regulations…’’
In line with the other categories covered by the EU Settlement Scheme, leave to enter or remain will only be granted to applicants who meet the relevant requirements by a specific time. Those applying to the scheme through the Surinder Singh route will have to contact the EU Settlement Resolution Centre to apply. An application form will be sent by post to the applicant.
If you are a British citizen returning to the UK with your non-EEA family members and want to find out more about the EU Settlement Scheme contact our immigration team: firstname.lastname@example.org