Most of you may now know that the rules regarding applying for British citizenship as an EU Citizen were amended by the Home Office to include the need for the applicant to posses a documents certifying their permanent residence. Below we bring all the information together and outline the new procedures.

Ever since David Cameron’s announcement for a referendum on UK’s future in the EU, and in particular since the change in rules by the Home Office, we have been receiving an unprecedented number of calls from EU citizens concerned about Britain’s potential exit from the European Union and the impact this would have on their status in the United Kingdom. As such, a large number of EU citizens have started making their applications for British citizenship.

The Home Office’s subsequent plans to change the British citizenship application process has also resulted in another surge of EU citizens eager to get their applications in before 12 November 2015.

So if you are now in a position where you would like to make your application for British citizenship as an EU citizen, here’s the step-by-step guide:

Permanent Residence

EU citizens still automatically acquire the status of permanent residence after completing 5 lawful years of residence in the United Kingdom under the European Regulations. They need to hold this status for one year before they can apply for Naturalisation – this has not changed. What has changed is that EU citizens must now obtain a document certifying that status.

Therefore, before you make your application for Naturalisation, you must first make an application for permanent residence. The application costs £65 and can take up to 6 months to be processed. This is of course a considerable amount of time and will essentially put back your Naturalisation plans half a year.

If you are one of those EU citizens who have been in the United Kingdom for over 5 years and have therefore held the permanent residence status for more than one year, you still need to apply for the permanent residence document. When you make your application, you will need to demonstrate to the Home Office when you think you acquired permanent residence. So if you entered the UK in 2009 and acquired the status of permanent residence in 2014, those are the documents you need to submit to the Home Office. The Home Office will recognise that you acquired your permanent residence in 2014 which means once you receive your permanent residence document, you will be free to apply for Naturalisation straight away.

If, however, you have only been in the UK for 5 years, you will need to make your permanent residence application based on those 5 years: for example January 2011 to January 2016. You will need to hold your permanent residence for one year before being able to apply for British citizenship as an EU citizen.

The requirements for permanent residence are pretty straight forward:

  • You must have lived in the UK for at least 5 years;
  • During your time in the UK, you must have been exercising Treaty Rights e.g. working, self-employed, or a student, for example;

All of these rules also apply to family members of European Union nationals. As you all know, their legal entitlement to stay in the UK all depends on their EU family member exercising their rights under the European Regulations.

British Citizenship as an EU Citizen

A round of the requirements for EU citizens is now as follows:

  • You must have been in the UK for 6 or more years;
  • You must have a document certifying permanent residence
  • You must meet the residence requirements which include an assessment of your absences from the UK and where you intend to live after making the application;
  • You will need to pass the Life in the UK Test;
  • You also need to pass an approved English Language Test – or have an approved degree;
  • You must meet the “Good Character” guidance, for example no recent or serious criminal convictions, you must not be bankrupt, or associated with those considered to have “bad character”

You may have noticed that the permanent residence application does not require an English language test or a Life in the UK test, but that the Naturalisation application does. EU citizens and their family members will need to pass the Life in the UK Test, which can only be booked online at least 7 days in advance. It costs £50 and there are around 60 tests centres in the UK. You don’t have to take the test if you are over 65.

There are now specific approved English language test centres that applicants will be able to use to satisfy the English language requirement if they do not have a degree. Be sure to check you are sitting an approved test, a retake will be costly.

Once you have met all the requirements for Naturalisation and obtained your naturalisation certificate, you will then be able to make an application for a British passport.

If you are keen to make a Naturalisation application in the near future, stop and remember there is a step to take in between, and start preparing for your permanent residence application.