It’s getting difficult for EU Nationals to become British citizens
You would think that with the end of free movement on the 31 December 2020 that the UK government would be encouraging EU nationals already living and working in the UK to consider applying for British citizenship. However, many are enquiring 'Is it hard to get British Citizenship?', British Citizenship solicitors say that it’s actually got harder for EU nationals to become British citizens. That shouldn’t put you off from applying for British naturalisation but you do need to take care with your British Citizenship application.
British Citizenship solicitors
London based OTS Solicitors are specialists in personal and business immigration law. If you are looking into being a British Citizen, 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. 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.
How do you get British Citizenship as an EU national?
If you are an EU national living in the UK then even if you have been settled in the UK for many years you can't make a British nationality application without first applying for:
If you aren’t eligible to apply for settled status then you can apply for pre-settled status first and then convert to settled status.
Immigration solicitors say it is best to get your paperwork sorted out as soon as you can, whether or not you want to go onto apply for British Citizenship. That’s because if you are an EU national who wants to apply for pre-settled status or settled status then you need to be living in the UK before 11 pm on the 31 December 2020 and to have made your application for pre-settled status or settled status by the 30 June 2021.
If you don’t apply for settled status by the deadline (and you don’t fall in the limited category of EU national who can apply late) then:
- To stay in the UK you will need to apply for a visa and be subject to Immigration control and
- You won't be able to apply for British Citizenship as quickly as you otherwise would as you haven’t secured settled status.
Once you have got your settled status or permanent residence then you can take the next step of securing British citizenship though this is a matter of personal choice as you will be able to continue to live and work indefinitely in the UK with settled status.
From EU national to British citizen
You won't be surprised to learn that if you want to become a British citizen then you will need to fill in more paperwork and make a formal British naturalisation application that has to be submitted to the Home Office for approval.
To secure British Citizenship you need to meet the eligibility criteria contained in section six of the British nationality Act 1981. There is a requirement that you have to have been lawfully resident in the UK for either three or five years, depending on your route to British Citizenship.
In addition to the residence requirement you also need to be of ‘good character’ and that is why it’s got harder for EU nationals to become British. That isn’t because Europeans are of ‘bad character’ but because of the impact of the Immigration Rules on EU citizens.
Under the good character Immigration Rules a Home Office official has to review a British Citizenship applicant’s compliance with Immigration laws for the ten years preceding the British Citizenship application, even though:
- You have secured settled status under the EU Settlement Scheme or permanent residence and
- You have met the lawful residence requirement of either three or five years.
Why some EU nationals are falling foul of the good character requirement is their failure to hold comprehensive sickness insurance during some or all of the ten years preceding their British citizenship application.
EU citizens living in the UK as a full-time student or as a homemaker or if economically self-sufficient (for example, the spouse or partner of a British citizen) have needed comprehensive sickness insurance since 2011. When applying for pre-settled status or settled status under the EU Settlement Scheme the UK government will still grant pre or settled status despite non-compliance with the rules. However, when it comes to a British naturalisation application a failure to obtain comprehensive sickness insurance goes to the Home Office assessment of your ‘good character’.
British citizenship solicitors say it is important to address comprehensive sickness insurance as if your British Citizenship application is refused you will lose your British naturalisation application fee. You can establish that you had comprehensive sickness insurance by:
- Having held private health cover – the rules specify the type of insurance that is sufficient
- Having obtained an EHIC
- Having cover under a reciprocal arrangement between the UK and your government.
If you are in the position of having been a student, homemaker or self-sufficient during the ten years preceding your British Citizenship application it is best to take legal advice from a British citizenship solicitor to see if you needed comprehensive sickness insurance and, if you had it, how to evidence it as part of your British naturalisation application.
If you should have had comprehensive sickness insurance but you didn’t then you will need to ask the Home Office to exercise discretion in your favour. The Home Office nationality guidance says that:
‘’You must consider why the applicant did not have comprehensive sickness insurance. Where someone has been granted ILR (Indefinite Leave to Remain ) under the EUSS (EU Settlement Scheme) but has not been resident here in accordance with the EEA regulations (prior to grant of pre-settled status or settled status) due to a lack of comprehensive sickness insurance you should consider whether it is appropriate to exercise discretion in their favour’’.
The guidance goes on to state that the Home Office official should take into account all the facts surrounding a breach and make a full assessment about whether discretion should be exercised and that discretion might be exercised if a breach in Immigration Rules was because the applicant did not meet a condition of stay, rather than illegal entry or overstaying, and specifically refers to the situation of an EU national not having comprehensive sickness insurance provided that the EU national ‘‘can provide sufficient evidence to justify discretion being exercised.’’
Unhelpfully, the Home Office guidance doesn’t say what amounts to sufficient evidence or give examples. However, if you are an EU national who inadvertently falls foul of the British Citizenship ‘good character’ requirement it is best that your British naturalisation application addresses the comprehensive sickness insurance issue to persuade the Home Office caseworker to exercise discretion in your favour.
British citizenship solicitors emphasise that lack of comprehensive sickness insurance shouldn’t deter you from applying for British citizenship but you do need to ensure that your application fully addresses the issue.
How can British Citizenship solicitors help?
The British citizenship and settled status solicitors at OTS Solicitors provide a same day Settled Status service to help with the first step of securing settled status and provide expert advice on British naturalisation applications.
For help with your British citizenship application 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 specialist British Citizenship and immigration law advice call OTS Solicitorson 0203 959 9123 or contact us here.