How can I become a British Citizen if I’m an EU National?
This month you may have some time on your hands because our opportunities to socialise are now severely curtailed again. Once we are released from the latest Covid-19 restrictions, thoughts and plans will be focussed on seeing family and friends and Christmas. That’s why between now and the 2 December it may be worth investigating how you can become a British citizen if you are an EU national living in the UK.
UK British Citizenship solicitors
London based OTS Solicitors advise on all aspects of personal and business immigration law. Our British Citizenship solicitors can answer all your British citizenship and Brexit related immigration queries whether you’re an EU national living in the UK or an EU citizen planning to move to the UK and settle here. For settled status and British citizenship advice call OTS Solicitors on 0203 959 9123 or complete our online enquiry form. Appointments are available through video conferencing, Skype or by telephone appointment.
Settled status under the EU Settlement Scheme as a passport to British Citizenship
If you are an EU citizen interested in becoming a British citizen then you will need either:
If you haven’t yet applied for settled status then you need to do so as soon as you can. After the UK left the EU it entered into a transition period. That period ends at 11pm on 31 December 2020. That deadline isn’t critical to you if you are an EU citizen who is already living and working in the UK. However, if you plan to come to the UK from the EU after the 31 December 2020, with your plan being to settle and become a British citizen, then you will need a family or work visa to enter the UK and you will be subject to Immigration controls until you successfully apply for British citizenship.
If you are an EU citizen who is already in the UK and you don’t already have permanent residence or settled status then you will need to sort that out first before you apply for British Citizenship. The deadline for applying for settled status or pre-settled status is the 30 June 2021. If you don’t apply for settled status by the deadline then you may have to leave the UK.
Can I apply late for settled status?
The reality is that not all of us are good at paperwork and there is a concern that many EU nationals living in the UK and eventually planning on making a British naturalisation application will miss the 30 June 2021 deadline for their settled status application.
The rule on late applications for settled status (after the 30 June 2021) is that a late application can be accepted if:
- There are there reasonable grounds for missing the 30 June deadline and
- The application for settled status has been made within a reasonable period from the deadline date.
Settled status solicitors say it isn’t worth the risk of missing out on being eligible to apply for settled status under the EU Settlement Scheme because a Home Office official thinks that you didn’t have reasonable grounds for delaying your application beyond the 30 June 2021. Applying for settled status can be straightforward if you use a same day settled status application service.
Does the 30 June 2021 deadline for applying for settled status apply to everyone?
UK immigration solicitors say that even the EU Settlement Scheme has its quirks and complexities. The standard pre-settled status or settled status deadline is the 30 June 2021 but there are exceptions. For example, if you have pre-settled status (as you haven’t been in the UK for five years at the date of your settled status application) you have until the end of your grant of limited leave to remain to apply for settled status. Alternatively, you can apply for settled status as soon as you have five years’ continuous residence in the UK.
The bottom line is that if your situation, or that of a family member, isn’t clear cut then it is best to take legal advice now on the deadline date for a settled status application and how you can then go on to secure British Citizenship.
Could I be refused settled status?
It is possible for the Home Office to refuse a settled status application. For example:
- The decision is justified on grounds of public security
- The decision is justified because it is conducive to the public good for conduct after the end of the transition period on the 31 December 2020
- False or misleading information or documents were submitted and the information was material to the outcome of the settled status application.
As settled status applications can be refused it is important to take expert legal advice from settled status solicitors and to make your application as soon as possible so that any issues can be resolved. That’s because until you secure permanent residence or settled status you can't proceed with a British Citizenship application.
Am I in the UK legally as an EU citizen?
You may assume that you are in the UK legally if you entered the UK as an EU national prior to the end of free movement on the 31 December 2020. However, the situation can be complicated if you were an EU student or home-maker or self-sufficient and didn’t or don’t have comprehensive sickness insurance or a European health insurance card (EHIC) issued by an EU country.
The Home Office rules say that in those circumstances you weren’t or aren’t legally living in the UK. You can rectify this by applying for settled status under the EU Settlement Scheme, provided you do so before the 30 June 2021. However, a key point is that even if you apply for settled status your status in the UK whilst an EU citizen not exercising treaty rights can be taken into account when the Home Office assess your British Citizenship application.
Why does lack of CIS impact on a British Citizenship application?
On the 30 September 2020 the Home Office changed its policy on good character and British Citizenship applications. Anybody over the age of ten who applies for naturalisation as a British citizen needs to be of ‘good character’. This is a mandatory requirement set out in Schedule 1 to the British nationality Act 1981. The change of an increase from five years to ten years of looking at your good character when assessing your British citizenship application may affect you if:
- You are planning on applying for British citizenship
- You are an EEA or Swiss citizen (or their dependant)
- You have been a student or self-sufficient in the UK in the ten years before your application for British Citizenship (employed and self-employed workers are not required to hold CSI or an EHIC) and you didn’t exercise treaty rights as you didn’t hold comprehensive sickness insurance or a European health insurance card (EHIC) issued by an EU country.
Can I still apply for British Citizenship if I didn’t have Comprehensive sickness insurance or a European health insurance card?
If you don’t have comprehensive sickness insurance or a European health insurance card and you are an EU citizen who needed one then this may affect the Home Office assessment of your ‘good character’. However, the good news is that you can still apply for British Citizenship but you will need to ask the Home Office to exercise their discretion.
Whilst many people don’t realise that they need comprehensive sickness insurance or a European health insurance card in order to exercise treaty rights, the Home Office policy guidance on good character nonetheless focusses on whether you complied with Immigration requirements. Lack of knowledge of the rules doesn’t give you an automatic pass but it can be used when asking the Home Office to exercise discretion on its good character policy. That’s because the updated guidance says that Home Office officials should look at the reasons why comprehensive sickness insurance or a European health insurance card was not obtained before deciding whether to exercise discretion.
Should I apply for British Citizenship?
You should not be put off from applying for British citizenship just because you are an EEA or Swiss national who is potentially affected by the new Home Office guidance on good character. From a British citizenship solicitor’s point of view the first step is to ensure you have settled status under the EU Settlement Scheme and to address the reasons why you may technically fail the British Citizenship good character test when asking the Home Office to exercise discretion and grant your British Citizenship application after three or five years of continuous residence in the UK.
How can the British Citizenship team at OTS Solicitors help?
The British citizenship and settled status solicitors at OTS Solicitors can advise you on your best Brexit options and provide a same day Settled Status service as well as give advice on British naturalisation applications.
For help with Brexit related Immigration questions and British Citizenship immigration services call OTS Solicitors on 0203 959 9123 or use our contact form. Appointments are available through video conferencing, Skype or by telephone appointment.
About OTS Solicitors
OTS Solicitors specialise in immigration law and are recommended in the two leading law directories, The Legal 500 and Chambers Guide to the Legal Profession. For expert immigration law advice that you can trust, call OTS Solicitors on 0203 959 9123 or contact us here.