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Why EU nationals are suddenly scrambling for British citizenship

by Philip Gamble | Feb 09, 2018
  • In 2017, the number of EU nationals applying for UK citizenship more than doubled compared to 2016. With the UK scheduled to leave the EU in March 2019, many Europeans are looking to secure British citizenship to avoid having to uproot themselves after Brexit. If you’re an EU national who wants to continue living in the UK, you should consider applying for UK citizenship sooner rather than later.

    Why the sudden scramble for UK citizenship?

    The huge increase in applications is a direct response to Brexit and the uncertainty surrounding whether EU nationals will be able to remain in the UK after 29 March 2019. Recent figures released by the Home Office show that the number of EU citizens applying for British citizenship has increased from 15,766 to 32,856 over a period of 12 months.

    The highest number of applications came from Poland, with 7,163 applications in 2017. There was also an increase in applications from expats from other EU member countries including Italy, France and Germany. Applications from German citizens almost tripled, rising to 2,338, while French applications were up 168.5%.

    How EU nationals can take advantage of the settled status programme

    Negotiations are still underway, but the latest deal between the UK government and European Union states is that after 29 March 2019, EU nationals will have a grace period of two years (until 29 March 2021) in which to apply for settled status. This status will allow EU nationals to remain in the UK post-Brexit.

    Please note: This is not a finalised piece of legislation, and any or all of these may change depending on what happens at the negotiating table over the next 12 months. The only way to 100% secure your right to live in the UK is to claim citizenship.

    Who can apply for settled status?

    There are three scenarios in which EU citizens can claim settled status:

    1. Those who have been living in the UK continuously for five years or more by 29 March 2019.

    These EU nationals will immediately qualify for settled status in the UK. However, in these situations, you must apply to the Home Office by 29 March 2021 for permission to stay if you intend to carry on living in the UK.

    2. EU nationals who arrived before the UK’s exit from the EU but won’t have been living in the UK for five years by 29 March 2019.

    In these cases, you will be able to continue to live and work in the UK until 29 March 2021 without having to make an application for settled status. As soon as you have been a resident for five years, you will then need to apply for settled status which will allow you to settle in the UK permanently.

    3. Those who have arrived in the UK before the country’s exit from the EU, but won’t be a resident for five years by the end of the two-year period after the exit.

    If you find yourself in this situation, you will be able to continue to live and work in the UK during those two years without having to apply for permission. You must, however, apply to the Home Office for temporary residence status should you wish to continue living and working in the UK after 29 March 2021.

    Don’t be worried, be prepared

    Currently, the UK government and EU are working closely with businesses that employ EU citizens to look at how they will be affected by the changes. In July 2017, the UK government commissioned the independent Migration Advisory Committee (MAC) to gather evidence on patterns of EU migration and the role of migration in the wider economy, ahead of the UK’s exit from the EU. The MAC is expected to report back in September 2018 and it’s based on this evidence that the UK will develop the future immigration system.

    If you want to completely ensure that you can stay in the UK after Brexit, you should apply to become a British citizen. Remember, under current rules, you can apply after you have held permanent residence for one year.

    No matter how complex your case, we can assist you with applying for British citizenship. Give us a call on +44 (0) 20 7759 7581 or send us an email on

    We are a professional services company that specialises in cross-border financial and immigration advice and solutions.

    Our teams in the UK, South Africa and Australia can ensure that when you decide to move overseas, invest offshore or expand your business internationally, you’ll do so with the backing of experienced local experts.

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