Applying for British Citizenship if you have Settled Status under the EU Settlement Scheme
Although many EU nationals who meet the eligibility criteria for settled status under the EU Settlement Scheme are late in applying for settled status, other EU citizens are keen to understand how they can move from their recently acquired settled status to British citizenship. Our immigration solicitors look at the route from EU national with free movement rights to settled status to British citizenship.
UK Online and London Based Immigration and British Citizenship Solicitors
If you have questions about settlement in the UK and British citizenship the expert British citizenship and immigration team at London based OTS Solicitors can help you. Call the immigration lawyers at OTS Solicitors on 0203 959 9123 or contact us online.
Applying for British citizenship if you hold settled status
If you are from the EU or an EEA national (from Switzerland, Iceland, Norway or Liechtenstein) and you have been organised enough to secure your settled status under the EU Settlement Scheme you may view the next inevitable step as your application for British citizenship.
Some EU nationals have been led to believe that settled status is temporary and that as they have made the commitment to live and work in the UK, they need to take the next step and apply for British citizenship.
At OTS Solicitors we believe in bespoke advice that is tailored to your circumstances rather than lumping all EU nationals together and encouraging every EU national with settled status to go on to apply to be a British citizen. Immigration solicitors say British citizenship isn’t the right option for everyone and so you should not feel rushed or driven into making an application.
If, like many EU citizens living and working in the UK with settled status, you aren’t sure what British citizenship would add to your life or to that of your family then the best option is to have a chat with a British citizenship solicitor. Many EU nationals say that applying for British citizenship was the best decision they made but it is best to check out your options. That’s because a British citizenship application isn’t obligatory after securing settled status.
Does an EU national need settled status to apply for British citizenship?
If you are from the EU or an EEA national (from Switzerland, Iceland, Norway or Liechtenstein) then, if you moved to live in the UK before the end of free movement on the 31 December 2020, you need settled status to apply for British citizenship.
The cut-off date for settled status applications was the 30 June 2021 but you may still be able to make your application if you have a reasonable excuse for a late application. If you have not applied for settled status yet it is best to get urgent advice on your EU Settlement Scheme application options.
If you are an EU national who has left it too late to apply for settled status, or you arrived in the UK after the end of free movement on the 31 December 2020 and you are therefore subject to UK immigration controls, you can still apply for British citizenship, using the same route as a non-EEA citizen. If you fall into this category, call the British citizenship solicitors at OTS Solicitors on 0203 959 9123 so you get a clearer idea of what you need to do to be in a position to apply for British citizenship.
Apply for settled status
If you need to take the first step on your British citizenship journey by applying for settled status under the EU Settlement Scheme then you need urgent advice to see if you can justify a late application. It is better to try to apply late , if you meet the eligibility criteria to do so, as settled status gives you far more freedoms and flexibility than being subject to UK immigration controls and having to apply for a skilled worker visa, business visa or family visa.
To obtain settled status you need to be able to establish that you have been living in the UK for five years or longer and that you qualify as having been ‘continuously resident’ for five years by the date of your settled status application. If you can't prove a five-year residence but you entered the UK to live before the end of free movement for EU citizens on the 31 December 2020, the next best option is to secure pre-settled status.
Once you meet the five-year continuous residence requirement you can then change your pre-settled status to settled status by making an application under the EU Settlement Scheme. Pre-settled status is still a far better option for most EU nationals than doing nothing and either being subject to UK immigration controls and visa requirements or being asked to leave the UK because you hold neither settled status or an appropriate visa.
EU nationals with settled status applying for British citizenship
The timing of your British citizenship application depends on whether you have settled status or pre-settled status and if you are married to a British citizen or not.
Once you have obtained your settled status you will need to wait twelve months from the date of your settled status to make your application for British citizenship.
If you have obtained pre-settled status then you will have to wait to secure settled status and then wait for twelve months after you acquire settled status to apply for British citizenship.
However, if you are married to a British citizen, you don’t have to wait twelve months after being granted settled status to apply for British citizenship.
Eligibility criteria for British citizenship
The eligibility criteria for a British citizenship application are the same whether you are applying as an EU national with settled status or a non-EEA national (or an EU national who doesn’t qualify for settled status) who has indefinite leave to remain and who has been lawfully resident in the UK for the requisite period of time.
The general eligibility criteria for a British citizenship application are:
- Lawful residence in the UK for the requisite period. For applicants with settled status, this is five years plus a wait of one year after securing settled status (unless you are married to a British citizen). In addition to the residence being lawful, the residence also needs to be continuous in accordance with the British citizenship rules.
- Of good character and sound mind.
- Aged eighteen or over.
- Pass the Life in the UK test unless you fall within one of the very limited exceptions and meet the English language requirement.
- Intend to continue to live in the UK, unless you are married or in a civil partnership with a British citizen.
The lawful and continuous residence requirement for those with settled status applying for British citizenship
There are a number of issues with lawful and continuous residence for those with settled status applying for British citizenship, namely:
- The fact that you secured settled status after living in the UK for five years doesn’t necessarily mean that you meet the lawful residence test for British citizenship. That is because for a settled status application the crucial point is residence whereas, for British citizenship, the residence has to be ‘lawful’ under EEA regulations. Many of those with settled status were resident in the UK for at least five years but do not meet the British citizenship definition of ‘lawful residence’. That’s because for residence to count as ‘lawful’ the person with settled status must have been exercising treaty rights. You may not have exercised treaty rights if you were a student or you were not in employment or you didn’t have comprehensive sickness insurance cover. If you aren’t certain if your five years of UK residence will count as ‘lawful’ for your British citizenship application it is best to get expert advice. For example, your British citizenship solicitor may be able to draft the application to try and ensure the Home Office official exercises discretion and approves the British citizenship application.
- There are time limits for absences from the UK during the five-year lawful residence requirement. If you are an EU national who didn’t plan for Brexit and could not foresee having to apply for settled status and British citizenship you may have exceeded the authorised absences. If you are applying for British citizenship using the five-year route (as you aren’t married to a British citizen) then you need to show you haven’t been absent from the UK for more than 450 days during the five-year residence period and no more than ninety days in the twelve-month period prior to your British citizenship application. The Home Office can exercise a bit of discretion but the British citizenship applicant has to demonstrate that they have set up home in the UK and intend to live in the UK. If you have had substantial absences from the UK then it is best to get expert British citizenship legal advice on the prospects of a successful application through use of COVID-19 concessions and exercise of Home Office discretion or waiting until you can meet more of the criteria and are more likely to be able to persuade a Home Office official to exercise discretion and grant your British citizenship application.
Need help applying for British citizenship with settled status?
Applying for British citizenship, even with settled status, can be complicated. This is especially the case if you have spent a lot of the time out of the UK for employment or family reasons. That’s why it is worth checking that you meet the eligibility criteria for British citizenship and, if your circumstances are complex, that you get help with your application.
UK Online and London Based Immigration and British Citizenship Solicitors
Our expert London based immigration solicitors can answer your settled status and British citizenship questions. For the best advice on settled status and settlement in the UK call OTS Solicitors on 0203 959 9123 or complete our online enquiry form.