Home Office publishes updated good character policy guidance for EU Nationals wishing to naturalise as British Citizens
On 30 September 2020 the Home Office published new guidance on the good character requirements for EU nationals applying to naturalise as British citizens.
The new policy doubles from 5 years to 10 years the period of time during which certain EU citizens who are resident in the UK must have complied with requirements to be lawfully exercising Treaty Rights in the UK. The updated policy is likely to affect those who have been in the UK as students and/or self-sufficient people (or the family members of students and/or self-sufficient people) at any time during the relevant 10-year period.
The updated policy states:
In assessing whether a person has complied with immigration requirements over the previous 10 years, you [i.e. the Home Office decision-maker] must take into account whether they were subject to the EEA Regulations 2016 or the Immigration Act 1971 and whether they complied with the relevant requirements.
To qualify for Settled Status under the EU Settlement Scheme (“EUSS”), an EEA national or their family member must have been resident in the UK for a continuous period of 5 years. However, a grant of Indefinite Leave to Remain under the EUSS does not confirm that the person has complied with immigration requirements during that time, as this is not a requirement of the EUSS.
The Immigration (European Economic Area) Regulations 2016 (“The EEA Regulations”) require any EEA national who is present in the UK as a student or self-sufficient person to hold comprehensive sickness insurance (“CSI”) or a European Health Insurance Card (“EHIC”) in order to be deemed lawfully present in the UK by virtue of exercising Treaty Rights. Importantly, this is not a requirement under the EU Settlement Scheme, which was introduced on 29 March 2019.
The EEA Regulations will remain in force until the end of the Brexit Transition Period (31 December 2020) during which time EEA nationals and their family members will continue to enjoy the right of free movement to the UK.
What is the good character policy?
The requirement to be of ‘good character’ applies to any person who applies for British citizenship and who is over 10 years old. Where a person is deemed not to be of ‘good character’ their application for British citizenship will be refused. The policy guidance outlines various considerations that apply, including ‘non-compliance with immigration requirements’.
What has changed?
The updated policy now explicitly states that EU nationals (and relevant family members) must have held CSI or EHIC where required, and for any periods in the 10 years prior to the citizenship application where the applicant has been a student, self-sufficient person, or the family member of a student or self-sufficient person.
Importantly, the grant of Settled Status under the EU Settlement Scheme (which does not impose the same requirement to hold CSI or EHIC) does not absolve any person from proving that they were lawfully in the UK under The EEA Regulations prior to 29 March 2019, nor from evidencing that they held CSI or EHIC during the relevant periods.
Please note that the new policy guidance does not introduce a 10-year residence requirement. If the applicant entered the UK less than 10 years ago, the caseworker will simply examine their UK residence from that date to the present.
The caseworker will have the authority to exercise discretion if the EU national does not meet the new good character requirements, although the Home Office is yet to publish further guidance on this.
Gherson has a wealth of experience in dealing with all UK visa and immigration matters including EU Settlement Scheme applications and applications under The EEA Regulations.
If you require any further information, please do not hesitate to contact us.
The information in this blog is for general information purposes only and does not purport to be comprehensive or to provide legal advice. Whilst every effort is made to ensure the information and law is current as of the date of publication it should be stressed that, due to the passage of time, this does not necessarily reflect the present legal position. Gherson accepts no responsibility for loss which may arise from accessing or reliance on information contained in this blog. For formal advice on the current law please don’t hesitate to contact Gherson. Legal advice is only provided pursuant to a written agreement, identified as such, and signed by the client and by or on behalf of Gherson.