Should you consider becoming a British citizen in Brexit Britain?


The number of EU citizens applying for British citizenship is booming as people from a diverse range of locations and backgrounds attempt to address the uncertainty caused by Britain’s Brexit vote.

It has without doubt been an anxious period for the 2.9 million people from other EU countries who are living in Britain. Similarly, around 1.2 million Britons who have set up home elsewhere in the EU are now facing some degree of uncertainty as to their future residency status. There have been moves to reassure Britain’s EU residents that their futures are safe, but many citizens are attempting to bypass the uncertainty by applying for citizenship.

Under current law, EU citizens are eligible for permanent residence after they have lived as a worker in the UK for five years or are a family member or partner of a worker. Other eligible people include students, a person classed as being an ‘economically self-sufficient’ candidate, or those who are understood to be ‘credible’ job seekers. It is then possible to apply for British citizenship.

The rise in applications has yet to be reflected in official figures but immigration lawyers across the country are reporting an increase in enquiries from EU nationals and the changes are likely to feature prominently in the next set of official figures, which are expected to be released in May 2017.

Applications for full British citizenship are being made by would-be residents from a wide range of EU countries, in addition to which a large number of Brazilians who benefit from dual Portuguese citizenship are now starting the process.

Among those people applying for British citizenship, there has also been a substantial increase in the numbers applying to hold Irish passports based upon their ancestry. This is according to figures from the Department of Foreign Affairs in Ireland.

Ireland offers the chance to become an automatic Irish citizen to any person who has an Irish parent. It is not deemed to be relevant where the child was born, merely that one or both of their parents can be classed as being Irish. As such, the grandchildren and even great-grandchildren of some Irish citizens can also qualify for citizenship in certain circumstances.

Applicants are not required to give their reason for wanting to hold dual Irish/British citizenship but many are believed to want to ensure continued free movement rights, regardless of any future changes as Britain leaves the EU.

There are also some Britons who have been rushing to take advantage of the so-called Surinder Singh route in a bid to ensure security for their foreign-born partners. Under current British immigration law, Britons who want to bring their non-EU partner to live in the UK must earn a minimum of £18,600.

It is possible to avoid these earning requirements, however, by living in another EU state, such as Ireland, for at least three months and getting their partner to join them there. They can then move together to Britain under the existing free movement laws.

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