Following the uncertainty of Brexit, an increasing number of EEA nationals are now opting to remove any doubt regarding their status in the UK and apply for British citizenship.
An application to naturalise as a British citizen can be made by those who hold a document certifying permanent residency either 12 months after becoming a permanent resident or immediately if married to a British national.
Before rushing to make an application however, an EEA national should consider whether holding British citizenship will have an adverse effect on their current position or that of their family members or, if they could potentially already be British.
Disadvantages of British citizenship
When making an application for British citizenship, individuals should bear in mind that whilst Britain allows dual citizenship, many countries do not. Becoming a British citizen could therefore lead to the loss of an individual’s current nationality and, when Britain leaves the EU, could then subsequently potentially lead to the loss of free movement. We would recommend that all applicants carefully check the laws in their country of citizenship in order to establish whether they are permitted to hold dual nationality. If dual nationality is not allowed, we would advise individuals to carefully weigh up their options prior to making an application.
Where a country does allow dual nationality, the UK Government currently takes the approach that those who have obtained British citizenship will then be treated by the UK primarily as British citizens rather than EEA citizens.
Please note that this is currently an issue that the European Court of Justice is looking at and judgement is due later this year. For now, however, EEA citizens should think carefully as to whether or not becoming a British citizen may have unexpected consequences for their family members.
At the moment, once the EEA citizen becomes British, even where they hold dual nationality, any dependants will, from that point forward, need to be in the UK in accordance with the UK Immigration Rules rather than under EU law. The requirements which must be met for dependant family members to remain in the UK are much more stringent than those to be met under EU law and will for example often involve having to meet a strict financial requirement, provide evidence of the relationship and evidence of the dependant’s English language ability.
Further information regarding the different applications which can be made under the Immigration Rules can be found here.
We will update our news pages once the ECJ has made a ruling on this matter.
Are you already British
Some EEA nationals may already be British and could apply directly for a British passport. The majority of those born in the UK before 1 January 1983 will be British. Those born in the UK between 1983 and 2 October 2000 to an EEA national who was exercising their treaty rights at the time of the birth will also be British, although recent case law indicates that this position may not be entirely in line with UK law. Any individual born in the UK after this date will be British if their EEA national parent was a permanent resident of the UK at the time of their birth.
If you are considering making an application for British citizenship and require assistance, please contact us.