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Naturalisation as a British National
Naturalisation is the process by which British citizenship is acquired by someone who held foreign citizenship.
Although there are several routes to naturalisation, most applicants qualify for British citizenship through: – five years of residence in the UK; – or through marriage to a British citizen with three years’ residence in the UK as a spouse or civil partner.
In addition to the residency requirement, most naturalising citizens must hold indefinite leave to remain and meet requirements of ‘good character’, ability to communicate in English (or Welsh or Scottish Gaelic), and ‘knowledge of life in the UK’ (as assessed by a Life in the UK test, also required for those applying for settlement). Children may qualify for either automatic or discretionary “registration” as British citizens depending on the country of their birth and nationalities of their parents.
The Home Offices offers a checking service for nationality applicants. Applicants using the service can keep their original valuable documents such as passports and marriage certificates rather than submitting them with their applications.
British Citizenship for EEA applicants and their dependants
Under the British Nationality Act 1981 to qualify for British citizenship an applicant must show, amongst other things, that he or she has permanent residence in the UK.
Under normal circumstances, citizens of EU and EEA countries and their family members automatically gain permanent residence after exercising their treaty rights in the UK for 5 years.
Until November 2015, citizens of EU and EEA countries, who had automatically gained permanent residence in the UK, could apply for naturalisation providing that they could show that they had been free from immigration restriction for at least 12 months prior to filing for British citizenship.
Pursuant of British Nationality (General) (Amendment No. 3) Regulations 2015, citizens of EU and EEA countries are now required to apply for a permanent residence card before they can apply for British citizenship.
To do so, they should complete the EEA (PR) form and pay a processing fee of £65 per applicant.
Bearing in mind that the EEA Caseworking is taking on average 6 months, this additional requirement is now going to extend the naturalisation process considerably.
Over the last few months, many of our clients were advised by the UKVI’s helpline and some of the Nationality Checking Centres that they would have to wait 12 months from obtaining their PR card before being able to file for naturalisation. The rational being that the PR card would in essence recognise their permanent residence only from the date of the card’s issuance rather than from the date they became permanent resident automatically by operation of EU law.
For instance, a French national working in the UK since 2001 but issued with a PR card in 2016 would have to wait until 2017 to qualify for British Citizenship.
This interpretation of the regulations seemed to be at odds with EU Free movement law and needed to be clarified.
Following a recent FOI request the nationality policy team have now confirmed that permanent residence is acquired following 5 years of residence in accordance with the EEA Regulations and not on the date the residence card is issued. The date an applicant is deemed to have acquired permanent residence is recorded on the UKVI’s database and will be noted by the caseworker processing the naturalisation application. It would appear that this information has yet to filter down to the army of staff dealing with ad-hoc enquiries.
For further information, please do not hesitate to contact us.