In perhaps a further demonstration of its current ‘anti-EU’ feelings, the government has imposed an additional administrative burden on EEA nationals wishing to naturalise as British Citizens. From 12 November 2015 all EEA nationals applying to naturalise must include with their application a Permanent Residence Card or other residence document issued by the Home Office certifying that they have acquired permanent residence in the UK. This is a significant change in the law as previously EEA nationals applying to naturalise did not need to submit an official document to evidence that they had obtained permanent residence; it was sufficient to provide documents with their naturalisation application to prove their status.
One of the fundamental principles of the European Union is freedom of movement which allows European nationals to travel and work in the EU member states without restrictions. Once an EEA national has been exercising Treaty rights in the UK for a continuous period of five years he or she will acquire permanent residence and will therefore be able to remain in the UK indefinitely, regardless of economic status. This status is acquired automatically, the EEA national does not need to submit an application to obtain permanent residence.
The recent change in the law means that before EEA nationals can make a valid application to naturalise as British citizens they must first submit an application to a different department of the Home Office for a Permanent Residence Card.
The application fee for a Permanent Residence Card is currently £65. In itself, this fee is not too burdensome but given that European applications usually take six months to be processed and there is no fast track service this change will delay the naturalisation process and add an additional, and in our view unnecessary, layer of administration.