British Citizenship application and Permanent Residence under EU Regulations
From July 2021 all applicants who rely on EU rights of residence, must first obtain Settled Status under the EU Settlement Scheme and hold the Settled Status for one year before applying for Naturalisation. Those who are married to British citizen may apply without waiting for the 1 year. Applicants who hold Permanent Residence (PR) document issued by the Home Office under the EU Regulations, could rely on it for their British citizenship application submitted by the end of June 2021. However, having a PR document is useful for Naturalisation application submitted 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 had already automatically acquired Permanent Residence in the UK at some point. This is because the document certifying PR merely serves as documentary evidence of the PR right that had already been acquired by operation of law and therefore the PR document does NOT grant 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.
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, self-sufficient or a combination of those. The factual scenarios may be quite complex as EU nationals lived their lives in the UK and their activities could change many times.
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. Fortunately, the Home Office has recently changed their guidance and lack of comprehensive sickness insurance should no longer cause problems for naturalisation applications from EU nationals and their family members.
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 worked in the UK or exercised Treaty Rights in some other way.
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 self-sufficient) 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.