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?”
As with all British citizenship applications, the UK naturalisation application demands extensive supporting documents, which settled status holders will need to comply with to avoid any issues, delays or a refused application.
Can I apply for British Citizenship with Settled Status?
Settled status holders may be eligible to apply for British citizenship if they meet the qualifying criteria for UK naturalisation:
- You must be 18 years old or over.
- Qualifying period of residence: You have spent 3 continuous years in the UK prior to your application date (the ‘qualifying period’). If you previously held permanent residence status which has been transferred to settled status, you can use this period of permanent residence towards the 12 month qualifying period.
- Lawful UK immigration status: You have held for at least 12 months either Indefinite Leave to Remain in the UK, or permanent residence or EU settled status.
- Absences: Your total number of absences from the UK over the qualifying period must not exceed 270 days. Your total number of absences from the UK during the 12 months prior to application must not exceed 90 days.
- Good character: You meet the good character requirements and not have a serious or recent criminal record.
- Knowledge of language and life in the UK: You must satisfy the English language requirements and pass the Life in the UK test.
- Compliance with immigration rules: You have been compliant with UK immigration rules throughout the qualifying period.
- Intent to reside: You must show intention to remain in the UK.
You do not need a permanent residence card to apply to naturalise with settled status.
Meeting the naturalisation ‘lawful residence’ requirement
Among the requirements is being able to prove that you have lived in the UK for a period of 12 months after the date you were granted full settled status and that you were not in breach of the immigration laws during the five-year ‘qualifying period’.
The potential issue for settled status holders applying to naturalise is that settled status in itself may not, in rare circumstances, be proof of past ‘lawful residence’ in the UK.
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. In other words, ‘physical residence’ required for settled status is not the same as living in accordance with the EEA Regulations 2016, which is 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.
- 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.
In light of this position, the Home Office has confirmed that caseworkers do not have to enquire into lawful residence at all where the applicant has ILR or indefinite leave to enter (ILE), however it was acquired. This effectively means that periods of residence already considered in earlier applications will not be investigated and evidence of lawful residence will not be requested where the applicant holds ILR or ILE, except where new information comes to light that would have affected the original ILR/ILE decision had it been known at the time. This is expected to be a very rare occurrence.
Length of absences from the UK during the residential qualifying period will still be assessed.
A further implication of this updated guidance is that under the good character requirement, personal immigration transgressions for those already granted ILR or ILE will not lead to a citizenship application failing solely on that basis. Note that this overlooking provision is only in relation to personal immigration history, and any other issues such as criminality will still be considered.
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 have applied for settled status under the EU settlement scheme to be able to continue to live and work in the UK post-Brexit.
This scheme was 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 (and their eligible relatives) 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 granted settled status, applicants must have lived continuously in the UK for the last five years, otherwise they will be granted what is known as pre-settled status. This will give permission to live and work in the UK until the individual has reached the five-year continuous residence point, at which time they can reapply for full settled status.
To be eligible to apply for the EU settlement scheme, applicants must either be an EU, EEA or Swiss citizen, or their family member. Those with indefinite leave to remain do not need to apply for settled status.
Family members include the spouse, civil partner or unmarried partner of an EU, EEA or Swiss citizen, as well as those 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 they used to have an EU, EEA or Swiss family member living in the UK but have separated or they have died, or where they 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 EU settlement scheme closed to new applications on 30 June 2021, with a brief grace period permitted for some who missed the original deadline.
Settlement status for a child born in UK
For EU and EEA nationals currently living in the UK, where one or more children are born here, it is important to know how this impacts the child’s immigration status. In this way, where the child is not automatically born British, steps can be taken to protect their rights.
Importantly, the settlement status of a child born in the UK can be complicated, where UK immigration laws and policies are also subject to constant change. As such, it is always best to seek expert advice from a specialist in immigration law for the most up-to-date guidance.
The immigration status of any child born in the UK to EU or EEA parents will depend on exactly when the child was born and their parents’ circumstances at the time of their birth.
For example, if the child was recently born in the UK and, at that time, at least one parent had settled status under the EU Settlement Scheme (EUSS), then the child should automatically be classed as having British citizenship. This means that an application will not need to be made for settled status under the EUSS, nor will they need to be registered as a British citizen. The parents can simply apply for a British passport for their child.
In contrast, for children born in the UK to EU or EEA parents who are living in the UK with pre-settled status under the EUSS, an application will need to be made under the scheme on behalf of the child for the same status. Importantly, the child will not automatically acquire British citizenship simply by virtue of being born in the UK. They would only be classed as British if they qualify for citizenship through at least one parent, for example, if their mother or father is either British or settled in the UK, where ‘settled’ means living in the UK without time restrictions. This includes those with indefinite leave to remain (ILR); settled status under the EUSS; permanent residence status; or the right of abode.
Equally, if a child is born in the UK to EU or EEA parents, where those parents are in the UK under one of the various visa routes, such as a work or student visa, an application will need to be made for a dependant visa to be able to travel in and out of the UK with them.
How to apply for settlement status for a UK-born child
The way in which a parent can apply for settlement status for their child, also known as indefinite leave to remain (ILR), will depend on the status held by the parent themselves at the time of the child’s birth. Below we look at applying for ILR under both the EUSS and under one of the various dependant visas available to the children of a primary visa-holder.
Settlement status under the EUSS
If a child has recently been born in the UK to EU or EEA parents who already themselves have settled status under the EUSS, there will be no need to apply for settlement status for the child. This is because the child will in fact be automatically classed as a British citizen.
However, for a child born to EU or EEA parents who, at the time that the child was born, had pre-settled status under the EUSS, an application will need to be made on behalf of the child. To apply for pre-settled status for a child born in the UK, an online application will need to submitted, together with proof of the child’s identity, date of birth, their relationship to the person applying on their behalf and evidence of their continuous residence.
It is only once a person has been living in the UK with pre-settled status for a period of 5 years, that an application can then be made for settled status. As such, the parents of a child born in the UK with pre-settled status can apply to change their own status once they have reached 5 years’ continuous residence, at which stage they can also apply for settlement status for their child. Alternatively, once the parent(s) have acquired settled status, they may then instead be able to register their child as a British citizen (see below).
Settlement status by way of a dependant visa
If a child has recently been born in the UK to EU or EEA parents who already themselves have indefinite leave to remain under one of the various visa routes available to overseas nationals, there will be no need to apply for settlement status for their child. This is because the child will in fact be automatically classed as a British citizen.
However, for a child born to EU or EEA parents who, at the time that the child was born, had limited leave to remain, for example under the Skilled Worker route, an application will need to be made on the child’s behalf for a dependant visa. To apply for a visa for a child born in the UK, an online application will need to submitted, together with proof of the child’s identity and date of birth, and their relationship to the primary visa-holder.
Once the parent is eligible to make an application for settlement under the relevant route, an application can also be made for indefinite leave to remain for the child at the same time. Alternatively, if granted settlement, they can instead register their child as British.
When is a UK-born child automatically classed as a British citizen?
British citizenship can be an extremely important right. This is because British citizens can live and work in the UK free from any immigration controls. However, a child will not automatically acquire British citizenship because they are born in the UK. As set out above, this will depend on when they were born and their parents’ circumstances at the time of their birth. Below we set out the rules relating to anyone born in the UK to EU or EEA national parents over the last two decades when it comes to acquiring British citizenship:
Born in the UK between 2 October 2000 and 29 April 2006
For a child born between these two dates, they will automatically be classed as a British citizen if at least one parent:
- had citizenship of an EU or EEA country at the time that the child was born
- lived in the UK, and
- had ILR, the right of abode or the right of re-admission.
However, if the parent that meets these conditions is the child’s father, he must have been married to their mother when they were born. Most children of EU or EEA nationals born between 2 October 2000 and 29 April 2006 will not automatically be British citizens.
Born in the UK between 30 April 2006 and 30 June 2021
For a child born between these dates, they will automatically be a British citizen if at least one parent:
- had citizenship of an EU or EEA country at the time that the child was born
- lived in the UK, and
- had ILR, settled status, permanent residence status, the right of abode or the right of re-admission.
If the parent meeting these conditions is the child’s father, and the child was born before 1 July 2006, the father must have been married to their mother. For children of EU or EEA nationals born on or after 1 January 2021, the child’s citizenship will be based on their parents’ settled status. This is because from 1 January 2021, an EU or EEA citizen with settled status under the EUSS cannot also have permanent residence status.
Born in the UK from 1 July 2021 onwards
Finally, for children born in the UK from 1 July 2021 onwards, they will automatically be a British citizen if at least one parent:
- had citizenship of an EU or EEA country at the time that the child was born
- lived in the UK, and
- had ILR, settled status under the EUSS, the right of abode or the right of re-admission.
Importantly, if a child’s parent had permanent residence status, this stopped being valid on 1 July 2021. This means that if the child was born on or after 1 July 2021, they do not automatically have British citizenship in most cases. However, they will still automatically be a British citizen if their parent with permanent residence status applied for settled status on or before 30 June 2021, and they were born before they got a decision on their application.
If the child’s parent was granted settled status after 30 June 2021, if the child is not a British citizen already, they will become a British citizen automatically if they were born before their parent got settled status if they applied either:
- on or before 30 June 2021, and they did not have permanent residence status, or
- after 30 June 2021, but they had ‘reasonable grounds’ for not applying prior to this date, and they would have met the settled status criteria if they had been able to apply by this date.
In either case, they will automatically become a British citizen from the date that they were granted settled status.
When can a child apply to register as a British citizen?
For a child born in the UK who is not automatically a British citizen at birth, they may be eligible to register to become one. If a child is under 18, they can register as a British citizen if one of their parents considered the UK as their home and was granted settled status under the EUSS after the child was born. Equally, a child under the age of 18 will be able to register as a British citizen if, after they were born, their parents were granted either ILR under one the various visa routes in the UK or became British citizens themselves.
Strictly speaking, it is also possible for a child who has resided in the UK for the first 10 years of their life to register to become a British citizen, even if neither parent was or has subsequently become British or settled in the UK, provided the child has not spent more than 90 days outside of the UK in each of the first 10 years of their life. In special circumstances, however, an exception may be made to this 90-day requirement.
The cost of applying to register for British citizenship is £1,012. If the child turns 18 during the process to register as a British citizen, they will also need to pay £80 for their citizenship ceremony. As part of the registration application, all applicants must enrol their biometric details so as to verify their identity. Children under the age of 6 will not be required to provide their fingerprints, although must still have a photo taken of their face.
Having been granted British citizenship, this will allow the applicant to apply for a British citizen passport. Being granted citizenship will also provide them with the opportunity to participate more fully in the life of their local community, especially as they become old enough to vote. Importantly, however, under the nationality laws of certain countries, an individual will automatically lose their nationality if they apply to become a citizen of another country. As such, expert advice should always be sought before applying to register.
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.
Does child born in UK need settled status?
An application for settled status does not need to made on behalf of a child born in the UK to a British or settled parent(s), where they will automatically be treated as British, without the need for any application.
What if my child was born in UK settled status?
For any child born in the UK to EU parents living permanently in the UK with settled status under the EU Settlement Scheme, the child will automatically be classed as a British citizen and be eligible for a British passport.
Do I have to apply for settled status for my child?
If your child was born in the UK and one or both parents were British or settled at the time, the child will be classed as British, so you will not have to apply for settled status on their behalf.
How can I check my child settled status?
If you are uncertain of your child’s status when living in the UK, it’s always best to seek advice from an immigration law specialist. They can also help you to make any necessary application to protect your child’s immigration rights.
Last updated: 1 March 2023