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If you are an EEA national living in the UK, you may qualify to apply for British citizenship (a process known as ‘naturalisation’), if you have lived in the UK for at least 5 years and acquired permanent residence status. Some of the key reasons for pulling the trigger are as follows.

Certainty – The UK will leave the European Union and at some point, free movement rights will come to an end. We don’t yet know what the post-Brexit settlement will look like. But whatever it is, it won’t apply to British citizens.

Delays – There is no ‘premium’ option for naturalisation, everyone applies (and queues) in the same way.  With potentially millions of European nationals looking to secure their status in the UK, we may see significant backlogs developing at the Home Office, especially as we approach any cutoff date.

Future Emigration – If you have acquired permanent residency in the UK under EEA law, the right is lost if you are absent from the UK for a continuous two-year period.

Opportunity – Applicants for naturalisation must meet requirements relating to their absences from the UK over the past 5 years, future intentions, and other criteria.  Even if you satisfy the criteria for naturalisation now, you may no longer do so in the future.

Children – If your children are born outside the UK, you may need to apply for naturalisation if you wish to also secure British citizenship for your child. Also, any child of yours born after you naturalise will be a British citizen, regardless of their place of birth.

Who Qualifies for Naturalisation?

As an EEA national you must have held permanent residence status for at least 12 months.  You must also have obtained a document certifying permanent residence (unless you are an Irish national where special rules apply).  Since the beginning of 2017 when the Home Office grants a permanent residence document, they will state on the letter when they believe you have become permanently resident, which will help you in knowing when you can apply.

You must be aged 18 or over, and demonstrate your knowledge of life in the UK by passing the ‘Life in the UK Test’.  You would also need to prove your knowledge of English, either by sitting an approved English language test, by having a degree taught in English or by being a national of a designated English-speaking country (Ireland is the only one in Europe).  You would need to meet the good character requirement.

You would need to meet a residential requirement which is assessed by submitting a schedule of your absences from the UK in the last 5 years.  You should not in general have been away from the UK more than 450 days in the last 5 years, and more than 90 days in the final 12 months.  (There is a discretion to overlook excess absences in certain circumstances.) Finally, you must intend to make the UK your main home if naturalised.

Applicants who are married to British citizens are a special case. They do not need to wait 12 months after obtaining permanent residence status. Also, they need not intend to make the UK their main home and can rely on absences of no more than 270 days in the last 3 years before their application, with no more than 90 days in the final 12 months.

What Does the Application Process Involve?

The application is submitted by post to the Home Office department in Liverpool accompanied by the required supporting documents, and the fee (currently £1,236). You would need to enrol your biometric information at a Post Office as part of the process.  Processing times are typically 4-6 months.  You can usually rely on a certified copy of your current passport, allowing you to travel in and out of the UK while the application is pending.

If your application is successful you would be invited to arrange a citizenship ceremony at your local authority, at which you would receive your naturalisation certificate. You would then need to make a further application, this time to the Passport Office, in order to obtain your first British passport.

The Joint Citizenship and Passport (‘JCAP’) service is offered by many local authorities and allows you to submit your applications for naturalisation and your first passport at the same time, saving a step. Using the JCAP process allows you to retain your existing passport during the application process since applicants for naturalisation are permitted to travel outside the UK while their application is pending with the Home Office.

Sticky Topics

Multiple nationality rules are an important consideration. The UK permits multiple nationality without restriction. Many other countries are more restrictive, however, and may regard you as having lost their citizenship if you voluntarily acquire another. In some cases, you may need to apply for special permission before taking up another nationality.

If you are sponsoring a third country national family member whose right to reside in the UK is dependent on your status as an EEA national (in most cases, if they have lived with you in the UK for less than 5 years), their right to reside may cease if you naturalise as a British citizen.  This is a potentially complex situation and you should seek advice before proceeding.

The position of children is also more complex.  Children born in the UK to EEA nationals living in the UK between 1983 and October 2000 will automatically be British citizens, if at least one of their parents was exercising treaty rights at the time of their birth. Those born to EEA national parents since April 2006 may also be British citizens if one of their parents had acquired permanent residence status before they were born. Children born in the UK in the period from October 2000 to April 2006 are unlikely to have acquired British citizenship automatically.

If your children are not already British citizens, they may be able to apply for registration (an administrative process similar to naturalisation). They will automatically qualify for registration if they are born in the UK and their parents have acquired permanent residency since their birth. Alternatively, if they are born outside the UK they may apply for registration if it can be shown that their future clearly lies in the UK.  If both the parents are applying for naturalisation at the same time this will usually be accepted.

Get More Information

You can get more information on the process of naturalisation here.

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