Applications for British citizenship by EU nationals
British nationality law is often a complex subject and, after 12 November 2015, this is an area which has increased in complexity for citizens of EU Member States who wish to apply for naturalisation as British citizens in accordance with the British Nationality Act 1981 (the ‘BNA1981’).
Applications for naturalisation as a British citizen will be considered by the Secretary of State in accordance with section 6(1) of the BNA1981. The main requirements are set out within paragraph 1 of Schedule 1 and may be summarised as follows:
- The applicant must be of good character;
- The applicant has sufficient knowledge of the English language and about life in the United Kingdom;
- The applicant intends to make the UK his principal home;
- The applicant must, in the 12 months immediately before the date of application, have been free from immigration time restrictions;
- The applicant was in the UK five years immediately before the date of application;
- The applicant must not have been outside the UK for more than 450 days within the five years prior to the date of application;
- The applicant has not been outside the UK for a period exceeding 90 days in the 12 months prior to the date of application; and
- The applicant was not in breach of immigration laws within the five year period prior to the date of application.
In order to meet the requirement set out at 4, above, establishing that a person is free from immigration time restrictions is, generally, straightforward; an applicant can simply produce a document issued by the Home Office conferring a grant of indefinite leave to remain in the UK. For citizens of EU member states, things are slightly different.
Citizens of EU member states acquire the right of permanent residence in the UK by having resided in accordance with the Immigration (European Economic Area) Regulations 2006 for a continuous five year period. The right of permanent residence arises automatically by operation of law and there is no requirement to obtain any documentation from the Home Office in order for this right to arise, although in practice it is often useful to obtain a document certifying permanent residence as this makes it much easier for the underlying right to be proved.
Prior to 12 November 2015 it was possible for an EEA national to include evidence with their naturalisation application that they had acquired the right of permanent residence at least one year prior to their application (unless they are married to a British citizen at the date of application in which case they need to simply prove that they have the right of permanent residence at that date).
Following The British Nationality (General) (Amendment No. 3) Regulations 2015, citizens of EEA member states are required to first obtain a document certifying permanent residence and to include this with an application for naturalisation as a British citizen.
As stated above, the right of permanent residence arises automatically. Therefore, provided this right existed for a period of at least 12 months before the date of the application for naturalisation as a British citizen, an application can be made as soon as the document certifying permanent residence has been issued by the Home Office.
By way of an example, a French citizen travels to the UK on 1 January 2010 to work and remains in employment throughout. On 1 January 2015 they will have acquired the right of permanent residence, whether or not they are in possession of any documents issued by the Home Office. They will be eligible to apply for naturalisation as a British citizen on or after 1 January 2016, irrespective of the date they were issued with a document certifying permanent residence.
If you are a citizen of an EU member state and you would like to apply for naturalisation as a British citizen then you must first make an application to the Home Office for a document certifying permanent residence. The Home Office will usually make a decision on the application within six months of the application being made, although much will depend on the complexity of each individual case.
British Citizenship – London Immigration Barristers
For further advice in connection with an application for a document certifying permanent residence and/or naturalisation as a British citizen please contact our immigration barristers in London on 0203 617 9173 oror via our online enquiry form.