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EU Nationals Rush To Apply For British Citizenship

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European nationals who live in the UK are rushing to obtain British Citizenship as fears over a Brexit grow. Our firm is experiencing a flood of enquiries from concerned EU migrants regarding how to naturalise themselves as they are worried about their future status in their adopted country.

The terrible atrocities committed in Brussels this week have strengthened calls for a Brexit. Those in favour of leaving the EU were given greater ammunition to argue the dangers they believe are presented to local populations via the cherished principles of free movement, open borders and tolerance that are the mainstays of the EU Treaty.

From the latest data available, it is estimated that there is around three million EU migrants living in the UK as of February 2016. Many of these individuals have lived in Britain for decades and have built their life and family here. They are, for all intents and purposes, British Citizens.

Fortunately, nearly all EU nationals are allowed to apply for dual nationality in another EU member country, including France, Germany, Greece, Italy, Portugal and Spain.

Options Available to Worried EU Citizens Living in the UK

If Britain does opt out of the EU it is possible that all EU nationals living in the UK will have to apply for a visa to remain. At present, those settled in the country can make an application for a permanent residence Card (PR) or British Citizenship.

Let us deal with each one in turn.

Applying for permanent residence

If you have lived and worked in the UK for five or more years and are a citizen of an EU country, you automatically qualify for permanent residence.

Although it has always seemed unnecessary for EU citizens to apply for permanent residence in the past, with the changes that may come about if Britain leave the EU, having permanent residence status can provide peace of mind that you can freely leave and enter the UK without any restrictions. It also offers surety to employers that you are free from any Immigration controls regarding your Employment. Moreover we have set out in our article ‘The benefits of applying for Permanent Residence as an EEA National before UK’s In-Out Referendum on EU membership!’ a detailed analysis of the benefits of applying for PR and a guidance on requirements of EEA permanent residence in the UK.

The amount of documentation required for submitting a permanent residence application can be off-putting but a good Immigration lawyer will help you sort through what you need to provide and make the process easy.

Becoming a British Citizen

For a fee of £1,005, you can apply to become a British Citizen, which will provide you with the highest level of security. This will make you eligible for all the benefits a person born in the UK has access to, such as health care and pensions, as well as the ability to obtain a British Passport and vote.

Applications are governed the British nationality Act 1981 and you become eligible if you are an EU citizen who has been living in the UK for six or more years.

You will also need to show that:

  • During your time in the UK, you have been exercising Treaty Rights e.g. you have been working, self-employed, or a student for example;
  • You meet the residence requirements which include an assessment of your absences from the UK and where you intend to live after making the application;
  • You have passed the Life in the UK Test;
  • You have passed an approved English Language Test – or have an approved degree from /be a national of a majority English speaking country;
  • You meet the “Good Character” guidance, for example no recent or serious criminal convictions, you are not bankrupt, or associated with those considered to have “bad character”

Family members must also meet all of these eligibility requirements if they wish to become British Citizens.

You will need to check with your home country as to whether you can hold dual citizenship under their domestic laws.

In Summary

With so much uncertainty in the air, it is well worth making enquiries as to whether you would benefit from obtaining a permanent residence Card or British Citizenship.

OTS Solicitors are regarded as one of the best Immigration law firms in London and have the experience and expertise to advise both EEA and non-EEA nationals through the UK’s Immigration process. We will ensure you are fully informed of the options available to you regarding obtaining a permanent residence Card and/or British Citizenship.

To talk to us further, please phone our London office on 0203 959 9123 to make an appointment with one of our Immigration law experts.

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