From 12 November 2015, EU nationals must apply for permanent residency if they want to naturalise and become British citizens.
What does this mean?
EU nationals won’t automatically get permanent resident status after living in the UK for five consecutive years. You will need to hold permanent residency for at least one year before applying for British citizenship.
This extra step will simplify the process of becoming a citizen in the following year.
Non-EU family members or EEA family permit holders are able to apply for their residency card after three months in the UK. This is essential if the EEA family permit member wants to apply for permanent residency. It also helps you re-enter the country quickly and easily if you’re travelling, and shows employers that you’re allowed to work in the UK.
Non-EU family members can apply for their permanent residency after five years in the UK, and then later apply for naturalisation.
What is permanent residency
Permanent residency – known as Indefinite Leave to Remain for non-EU nationals – gives holders the right to live in the UK permanently.
Permanent residency allows you to work without restriction in the UK. You may also exit and re-enter the country multiple times, free of immigration control.
Note that if you leave the UK for a continuous period of two years or more, the authorities can deem that you are no longer present and settled in the country. This may cause your permanent residency status to be revoked.
British citizenship allows you to move freely within the UK and enjoy all the benefits of settlement. This includes free medical care under the NHS, the right to work as well as access to all government job search services and unemployment allowances.
Once you receive British citizenship, you will be able to apply for a UK passport and vote in parliamentary, local and European elections.