British Citizenship application and Permanent Residence under EU Regulations

From July 2021 all applicants who rely on EU rights of residence, must obtain Settled Status under the EU Settlement Scheme before applying for Naturalisation. Those who hold Permanent Residence (PR) document issued by the Home Office under the EU Regulations, could rely on it for their British citizenship application made by the end of June 2021. However, having a PR document is useful for Naturalisation application even after the 30th June 2021.

The applicants with PR document will not need to prove their legal residence in the UK for the relevant period of residence they previously relied on and evidenced for their PR application. This makes perfect sense to immigration lawyers, as the Home Office already examined and confirmed their legal residence when the PR document was issued. This cuts the number of documents applicants need to provide for the Naturalisation application.

Those EU nationals and their family members who are applying for Naturalisation but do NOT have a document confirming PR may still have already automatically acquired Permanent Residence in the UK. This is because the PR document only confirms the PR right that was already acquired and not grants the right.

Holding a PR document or even having PR acquired automatically at some point in the past, is relevant for Naturalisation application as those applicants would no longer have to prove legal residence under EU Regulations from the date the PR was acquired. It can be useful when after obtaining PR an applicant for Naturalisation did not have a Comprehensive Sickness Insurance (CSI) and resided in the UK as a Student or Self-Sufficient person.

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Legal residence under EU Regulations and Permanent residence

EU nationals or their family members who resided in the UK in accordance with the EU Regulations could acquire PR after 5 years continuous residence provided that they can prove that the residence was legal.

To be considered as legal, the residence must be in accordance with EU Regulations. In a nutshell this means that someone had to be a worker, self-employed, job seeker, student with comprehensive sickness insurance, self-sufficient with comprehensive sickness insurance or a combination of those. The factual scenarios may be quite complex.

Depending on individual circumstances, there may be many EU nationals who have long breaks in employment, were in the UK for periods of time as students without comprehensive sickness insurance or resided as self sufficient relying on own funds without holding comprehensive sickness insurance. For those applicants it may be challenging to prove their legal residence under the EU Regulations, and this would unfortunately cause problems for Naturalisation applications.

As a reminder, the legal residence for Naturalisation is counted 10 years back from the date of Naturalisation application. This may come as a surprise for many applicants who thought there was only 5 years legal residence required for British citizenship application. The point is that the 5 years is indeed required for Naturalisation, but there is also a Good Character requirement, and for the Good Character the Home Office checks 10 years back. There is also a useful Home Office guidance ‘Naturalisation as a British Citizen by Discretion‘.

Why the acquired PR is useful for the Citizenship application? When the evidence demonstrates that PR was acquired at some point in the past, for the time from the date the PR was granted the applicants would not need to prove legal residence under the EU Regulations. For example, applicants would no longer need to evidence that they held comprehensive sickness insurance or that they worked in the UK or exercised Treaty Rights in some other way.

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Settled status before British citizenship application

Those who only hold Settled Status under the EU Settlement Scheme and did not acquire PR, will need to provide evidence that they exercised treaty rights in the UK (i.e. worked in the UK, were self-employed, studied or were self sufficient with Comprehensive sickness insurance) when resided in the UK under the EU Regulations. This means that comprehensive evidence of employment, self employment, study or self sufficiency needs to be provided with the Naturalisation application.

To summarise the important point again, for the British citizenship application the applicants must reside legally in the UK during the 5 year period immediately before the application. In fact, the Home Office checks the legality of your residence during the most recent 10 years prior to the application. This is because the good character requirement for the Citizenship applications takes into account the most recent 10 years before application.

For the above reasons, the Naturalisation applications for EU nationals and their family members are usually more complex than applications from others.For this reason they are advised to seek help and guidance for their citizenship application from experienced immigration lawyers.