One of the common questions we are asked by EU citizens living in the UK is “Can I Apply for British Citizenship with Settled Status?”
We take a brief look at the eligibility and application requirements for both the EU settlement scheme and UK naturalisation for EU citizens wanting to secure their continued lawful status in the UK post-Brexit.
What is Settled Status?
If you are an EU citizen, or the family member of an EU citizen, living in the UK, you will need to apply for settled status under the EU settlement scheme to be able to continue to live and work in the UK post-Brexit.
This scheme is designed to honour an agreement reached between the UK government and the EU to protect the rights of EU citizens living in the UK. The UK has also reached an agreement with Iceland, Liechtenstein and Norway, as well as a separate agreement with Switzerland.
Although these agreements mean that most EU, EEA and Swiss citizens will need to formally apply to stay in the UK – the EEA includes any EU country, together with Iceland, Liechtenstein and Norway – subject to a successful application, these citizens can continue living and working in the UK as they do now for as long as they like, subject to satisfying the continuous residence requirement.
Am I eligible to apply for settled status?
To be eligible to apply for the EU settlement scheme you must either be an EU, EEA or Swiss citizen, or their family member. Please note, if you already have indefinite leave to remain you do not need to apply.
Family members include the spouse, civil partner or unmarried partner of an EU, EEA or Swiss citizen. Typically, you will also be eligible to apply if you are related to an EU, EEA or Swiss citizen, or their spouse or civil partner as their:
- dependent child, grandchild and great grandchild
- dependent parent, grandparent or great grandparent
- dependent relative, including siblings, aunts and uncles, nieces and nephews, or even cousins.
Family members do not need to be from the EU, rather they can come from anywhere in the world. These individuals are known as non-EU citizen family members.
There are also various other circumstances in which a non-EU citizen may be eligible to apply for settled status, including where you used to have an EU, EEA or Swiss family member living in the UK but you have separated or they have died, or where you are the primary carer of a British, EU, EEA or Swiss citizen.
How can I apply for British Citizenship with Settled Status?
To apply for settled status you will need to complete a short online application using a computer, tablet or mobile phone, providing detail about your identity, your UK residence, how long you have lived in the UK and, where relevant, your relationship to an EU, EEA or Swiss citizen. The application is free of charge.
Each applications must be made on an individual basis, although once you have made an application for yourself, this can be linked to your family member’s application using your unique applicant number.
Please note, that in some cases the online service may not be available to you and you will need to submit a postal application, for example, if you are not an EU, EEA or Swiss citizen and you are applying as the primary carer of a British, EU, EEA or Swiss citizen.
You have until the 30 June 2021, or 31 December 2020 in the event of no deal, to apply for settled status. Your rights will remain unchanged until then, provided that you were resident in the UK by 31 December 2020, or the date the UK leaves the EU if there’s no deal.
To be granted settled status you must have lived continuously in the UK for the last five years, otherwise you will be granted what’s known as “pre-settled status”. This will give you permission to live and work in the UK until you have reached the five year continuous residence point, at which time you can reapply for settled status.
What does it mean to have British citizenship?
Applying for British citizenship involves a commitment to respect the laws, values and traditions of the UK, but in return you will be granted the same rights and advantages as any other British national, not least that you can live and work in the UK free from immigration control.
You will also be able to apply for a British passport and participate more fully in your local community, including the right to vote in local and general elections.
There are different ways to become a British citizen, although the most common route is through “naturalisation”. In other words, you become a British citizen through satisfying various eligibility criteria.
Am I eligible to apply for British citizenship with settled status?
If your application for settled status under the EU settlement scheme is granted, typically you will be able to apply for British citizenship after twelve months. In most cases this means that you will need to wait until you have lived in the UK for six years before you can apply for British citizenship.
You can also apply for British citizenship if you have indefinite leave to remain and have lived in the UK for a minimum of five years before you apply, unless you are married to or in a civil partnership with a British citizen, in which case this period is reduced to three years.
That said, this does not by itself guarantee that your application for British citizenship will be successful. In most cases, you will still need to satisfy the following eligibility criteria:
- You are aged 18 or over
- You are of sound mind
- You are of good character, ie; no recent or serious criminal record
- You have sufficient knowledge of language and life in the UK
- You meet the residence requirements, ie; not been absent for more than a set number of days during the five year period of residence
- You intend to continue to live in the UK, unless you are married to or in a civil partnership with a British citizen.
Can I apply for British citizenship with settled status?: The application process for naturalisation
You can apply to become a British citizen by way of naturalisation using an online form. You can also apply by post using Form AN entitled “Become a British citizen by naturalisation”. It costs £1,330 to apply.
As part of the application you will be asked various questions relating to the eligibility criteria, including how you intend to satisfy the requirement to have sufficient knowledge of language and life in the UK. The ability to communicate in English, and have knowledge of life in the UK, forms an integral part of the commitment to respect the laws, values and traditions of the UK.
Unless exempt, you will need to have first passed the “Life in the UK” test” prior to submitting your application. Further, unless you are a national of a majority English speaking county, you will also need to provide evidence of:
- an approved English speaking and listening qualification
- a UK degree or other academic qualification deemed to be equivalent to a UK qualification taught or researched in English.
As part of the application process you will also need to make an appointment at a UK Visa and Citizenship Application Services (UKVCAS) service point to provide your biometric information, ie; your fingerprints and a photo. This will cost an additional £19.20.
In the event that your application for British citizenship is successful – you will usually get a decision within around six months – you must then attend a Home Office citizenship ceremony within three months where you will be asked to affirm or swear an oath of allegiance to Her Majesty the Queen, and to pledge your loyalty to the UK. It costs £80 to attend a group ceremony.
Following the ceremony you will be presented with your certificate of naturalisation under British citizenship. Please note, you may be fined if you do not return your biometric residence permit back to the Home Office within five working days of getting your certificate of British citizenship.
Can I apply for British citizenship with settled status?: The need for legal advice
Applying for British citizenship can be a complex process requiring thorough preparation. Further, if you obtain citizenship on the basis of incorrect or fraudulent information you will be liable to prosecution.
It is therefore always best to seek expert advice well in advance of making your application to maximise your chances of a successful outcome. Your legal adviser can also provide advice as to the best way to obtain British citizenship, for example, through naturalisation or via an alternative route such as registration.
Please note, the details of the EU settlement scheme as set out in this article may change depending on the circumstances in which the UK leaves the EU and depending on whether its exit date is delayed.
Please note, the details of the EU Settlement Scheme as set out in this guide may change depending on the circumstances in which the UK leaves the EU and depending on whether its exit date is delayed.