EU settled status & the road to British citizenship

19 May 2020

EU nationals holding EU settled status (EUSS) hoping to apply for British citizenship could face difficulties after a quiet Home Office guidance update published just 5 days ago, on May 14, 2020.

EU settled status is classed as Indefinite Leave to Remain (ILR) and confirms an EU nationals rights to reside and remain in the UK as a permanent resident.  The application is done by way of a mobile app and is free of charge. There are 3 key criteria that an applicant needs to meet – prove their identity and nationality, show that they were resident in the UK by 31 December 2020, and declare any criminal convictions. Automated checks with HM Revenue & Customs and the Department for Work and Pensions will provide ‘instant approval’ on screen. Applicants with 5 years of residence in the UK will be granted ILR and applicants with less than 5 years of residence will be ‘offered’ pre-settled status – that is confirmation of a right to reside in the UK and to apply for EUSS/ILR upon reaching 5 years residence.

This scheme was introduced to protect the rights of EU citizens living in the UK following Brexit and to ensure that the end of free movement would not have a detrimental effect to EU citizens who had lived in the UK, in some cases, for decades without any formal documentation under free movement.

But as the old saying goes, “nothing in life comes for free.” This is only too true of this scheme.

A Home Office staff guidance on British nationality applications (Naturalisation) published on May 14, 2020 states

“If they have ILR that has been granted through the EU Settlement Scheme (EUSS) the only evidence required will be the date of the grant. You must check this against Home Office records.”

However, the policy goes on to further clarify that holding ILR may not be sufficient:

“However, this grant of settled status (also known as indefinite leave to enter or remain) will not confirm that they were here lawfully under the EEA Regulations during that time, as defined by the British Nationality Act 1981 as this is not a requirement of the EU Settlement Scheme. You may therefore need to request further information from the applicant to demonstrate this. “

Essentially, the ease of the scheme, the free cost, and lack of due-diligence checks in place for continuous residence means that the new scheme is ‘incompatible’ with the British Nationality Act 1981 and the official can ask to see further documentation and or information from the applicant. Essentially, this a new example in a long line of the Home Office decisions to make previously straight-forward processes unnecessarily complicated.

If you are an EU national with EU settled status (EUSS)/ILR, and you are thinking of making a Naturalisation application, contact one of our immigration lawyers today.