EEA nationals applying for permanent residence must do so either using the 85-page form, or if eligible, by filling in an online application.
Those who have managed to stay awake long enough to reach page 28 of the paper form will have come across question 5.3 which asks applicants to provide the following details for each of their absences from the UK: Country or countries visited, Date of departure, Date of return, Number of days of absences from the UK.
This is easier said than done. EEA nationals do not receive entry or exit stamps on their passports. This can make it exceptionally hard to accurately recollect precise dates of entry and exit from the UK. This question on the form has caused considerable stress and anxiety to a very large number of EEA nationals I have met recently. The anxiety caused by the inability to answer this question is disproportionate to its significance. The purpose of the question is really to assess whether or not the applicant has been out of the UK for over 6 months in total in any 12 month period. If the answer to that is no, then no further details need to be provided. This has now been clarified in the Home Office's policy guidance document which was published in April. It states:
Please note, you only need to list your absences where you have been out of the UK for more than 6 months in total in any 12 month period. You do not need to list any absences that were before your qualifying period of residence.
One way around this question is simply utilising the online form which allows it to be bypassed if you have confirmed that you have not exceeded the absence thresholds. If still proceeding with the paper form, it would be sufficient for an applicant who does not exceed the thresholds to simply note this on the form and move on to the next section.
If entry and exit records are still needed however, for example for use in a subsequent naturalisation application, it has recently been drawn to my attention that it is possible to obtain a record, which is often incomplete, from the Home Office. This contains flight details matching the individual making the request, and likely emanates from the carriers. This can be done by Subject Access Request.