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If you’re an EU national and want to secure your rights in the UK, the best way to do that is to apply for British citizenship now. If you've been wondering how to get this process started, this article should help you on your way.

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British citizenship vs permanent residence

In the UK, permanent residence is the legal right to live in the UK permanently, without the need to apply for visas to remain in the country. Permanent residence is granted after completing a period of five years qualifying residence in the UK, and it often leads to naturalisation as a British citizen. You can only apply for a British passport once you have been granted British citizenship.

Step 1: Get a permanent residence card

As an EU national, you to be able to live in the UK, if you are exercising your treaty rights. This can be done through employment, being a student or being otherwise self-sufficient. Note that those who have spent time in the UK as a student or being self-sufficient will be required to show that they’ve held comprehensive sickness insurance during any periods of being self-sufficient or studying.

After completing five years qualifying residence in the UK, EU nationals will be granted permanent residence automatically. As the status is granted automatically, one doesn’t specifically need to apply for permanent residence. However, it is highly recommended that you obtain a permanent residence card confirming your permanent residence and as proof of your right to work in the UK, as employers are likely to request evidence of your right to work.

Additionally, on 27 October 2015, new regulations were introduced to prevent EU nationals from applying for British citizenship if they did not first hold a card certifying their permanent residence. Therefore, you need to obtain a permanent residence card before you can apply for British citizenship.

You can apply for your permanent residence card by filling in the relevant application forms and posting it to the Home Office, along with supporting documents. You will also be expected to supply your biometric information as part of the application process (including digital photos of your face, your fingerprints and your signature). The Home Office will send a letter requesting the same. Your biometric information can be processed at certain post offices.

Step 2: Apply for British citizenship

Generally speaking, you have to hold permanent residence for 12 months before you can apply for British citizenship. In most cases, EU nationals will have held permanent residence long before they’ve obtained their permanent residence card, so it may be possible to apply for British citizenship as soon as you have your card certifying your permanent residence.

In addition to holding a permanent residence card, you will also need to meet the following criteria to be eligible for British citizenship:

What about children who are EU nationals?

The current position for children who are EU nationals living in the UK is complicated. Children also need to apply for permanent residence after five years before they can apply for British citizenship. The problem is that they are disadvantaged when applying for permanent residence because they don’t have documents such as tax receipts or lease agreements to prove that they have been a resident in the UK for the required amount of time. At present, school admission data is not allowed to be used as evidence, so sourcing acceptable documentary evidence can be an administrative nightmare.

Children born overseas who have been living in the UK for some time with their EU national parents may already be British, but this will depend on when the family moved to the UK. The position for children born in the UK is equally as complicated as again, it will depend on the European regulations and British nationality legislation in force at the time of their birth. Getting in touch with an experienced British citizenship consultant who can analyse your unique circumstances and advise you on the best course of action is your best move in these situations. 

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But what about Brexit?

Given that Brexit is looming, the future status of EU nationals living in the UK is incredibly difficult to predict. To protect your rights to live and work in the UK, we urge you to secure your status in the UK as soon as possible.

If you have been living in the UK for five years or more, secure your permanent residence card. If you already have your permanent residence card, ensure that you apply to naturalise as a British citizen sooner rather than later.


Get in touch with our team of immigration and citizenship experts to get your application started. No matter how complex your case, we can assist you at every step of the way. Give us a call on +44 (0) 20 7759 7554 or send us an email on citizenship@sableinternational.com

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