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?”
The answer is that UK settled status holders may be eligible to apply for British citizenship, provided they can show they meet the requirements. Unfortunately, however, this is rarely straight forward. In its latest guidance, the government was open in admitting that applicants potentially face a number of issues when making their naturalisation application on the basis of settled status.
Can I apply for British Citizenship with Settled Status?
Home Office guidance in May 2020 confirmed that settled status in itself is not proof of past “lawful residence” in the UK – one of the key requirements for British citizenship applications.
This is because the settlement scheme registration process required proof only of 5 years’ continuous residence, and not evidence of being here lawfully under the EEA Regulations and as defined by the British Nationality Act 1981.
Physical residence as required for settled status is not the same as living in accordance with the EEA Regulations 2016 and as required under the citizenship requirements.
This is in contrast to the permanent residence application process, which required (extensive) evidence of 5 years’ of exercising Treaty rights, i.e. as a job seeker, worker, self-employed, self-sufficient or student person.
This means that:
- EU nationals and their family members may have to wait longer than expected to apply for citizenship in order to establish a sufficient and qualifying period of lawful residence.
- Many settled status holders are likely to be ineligible for citizenship as they do not meet the residence requirements, such students, those who are self-sufficient and without comprehensive sickness insurance or applicants who were economically inactive.
- The Home Office may need to request further information from the citizenship applicant to demonstrate that they were lawfully resident in the UK prior to the grant of settled status.
The Home Office acknowledged that this guidance is likely to cause issues for many, and that discretion may be used in determining applications.
Individuals who are applying for citizenship on the basis of residence rights under the EEA Regulations and having been granted pre-settled status will only need to evidence that they exercised Treaty Rights for the period prior to the grant of pre-settled status.
What are the British citizenship requirements?
Applying for British citizenship involves a commitment to respect the laws, values and traditions of the UK, and 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 attain the right to vote in local and general elections.
If your application for settled status under the EU settlement scheme is granted, you will need to wait a further 12 months before you can apply to naturalise.
This is regardless of how long over and above the 5-year minimum naturalisation residence requirement you have lived in the UK for.
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.
This differs to the rules applicable to EU citizens who have applied for UK permanent residence, who may be able to apply for citizenship as soon as they have attained the five years residency without waiting a further 12 months, such as spouses of British citizens and of UK settled persons.
Eligibility for British citizenship will also depend on meeting further qualifying 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.
What is the application process for British citizenship with settled status?
Provided you meet the eligibility criteria, including the continuous residence requirement, 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.
British citizenship application decisions can take up to 6 months. If successful, you must 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.
With British citizenship, you can then apply for a British passport.
Attaining 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.
Subject to successful registration under the scheme, EU citizens with settled status can continue living and working in the UK for as long as they wish, provided they satisfy the continuous residence requirement.
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.
To apply for settled status you will need to complete a short online application, 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 application must be made on an individual basis, although once you have made an application for yourself, this can be linked to a relevant 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 to apply for settled status. Your rights will remain unchanged until then, provided that you were resident in the UK by 31 December 2020.
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.
Need help applying for British citizenship with settled status?
Applying for British citizenship is a complex process, requiring careful consideration of eligibility and thorough preparation of extensive supporting documentation.
DavidsonMorris specialise in UK citizenship, and can support with all aspects of your application; from eligibility for settled status, to providing guidance on building a robust submission with supporting documents and references in support of your naturalisation application.
From settled status to British citizenship FAQs
Can I apply for British citizenship with settled status?
You may become eligible to apply for British citizenship after you have held settled status for 12 months.
Is settled status the same as citizenship?
Settled status and British citizenship are different. While settled status is a grant of indefinite leave to remain, it does not affect your nationality. To become a British citizen, you will need to make an application to naturalise once you have held settled status, or ILR, for 12 months.
Is it worth applying for British citizenship?
There are many benefits to attaining British citizenship, including travelling free from UK immigration control and gaining the right to vote, but you should also consider any downsides, such as the impact on current nationality or any tax implications.
Last updated: 1 June 2020