Record numbers of EU27 nationals apply for UK citizenship

The first three months of the year saw an unprecedented rush by EU27 nationals living in the UK applying for British citizenship, according to Home Office figures.

The first quarter saw a record 18,011 applications – an average of 200 a day, which represented a 52 per cent increase on the corresponding period last year – apparently because EU nationals were seeking more post-Brexit security than that offered by the government's 'settled status' scheme.Research published last week by the University of Birmingham's Eurochildren project found that the share of applications for naturalisation by EU27 residents in the UK had increased from five per cent in 2007 to 26 per cent in 2017.

EU nationals want British citizenship to secure the position of their families 

"More than 80,000 EU residents have applied for naturalisation since the EU referendum. Many more are still uncertain on their legal status," said the university. "Many EU nationals do not trust the UK government’s settled status scheme and are being pushed to apply for British citizenship to secure the position of their families."The rush in the first three months was partly due to the fact the UK was originally due to leave the bloc on March 29. In the year to this March, 55,300 applications were made and 46,000 granted, although some of the latter reflected applications made earlier, while some of the former are still outstanding. 

Fears that settled status scheme could be changed by parliament 

Under the settled status scheme, EU27 citizens who have lived in Britain for five years continuously can apply to remain permanently and retain existing rights to work and live for themselves and their families.However, many European citizens fear that the scheme could be changed when it is presented for parliamentary approval. Nando Sigona, professor of international migration at Birmingham University, told The Times, "The fear of having their rights taken away from them has pushed many respondents to consider applying for British citizenship. Many EU nationals have lost trust in the British government and its settled status scheme. "Citizenship is seen as a way of anchoring yourself in the UK. It also gives you options to leave the UK for a period of time and return."Madeleine Sumption, director of Oxford University's Migration Observatory, said it was difficult to identify exactly the reason for the surge in citizenship applications this year, but said it was clear people wanted to feel more secure about the future.

Brexit has changed citizenship culture 

"EU citizens never had a culture of applying for British citizenship because they did not need to. As a result of Brexit, that is changing," she said."Even though citizenship is not necessary to stay permanently, people feel more secure with citizenship as it is extremely difficult to revoke."Citizen applications cost £1,330 and require applicants to have lived in the UK for five years, to have knowledge of English and to pass a 'Life in the UK' test.The Birmingham University study also found that attitudes towards naturalisation, "vary significantly among EU nationals, with more well-off and educated EU nationals and EU14 citizens displaying more resistance to applying to become British on moral and political grounds".Subscribe to Relocate Extra, our monthly newsletter, to get all the latest international assignments and global mobility news.Relocate’s new Global Mobility Toolkit provides free information, practical advice and support for HR, global mobility managers and global teams operating overseas.Global Mobility Toolkit download factsheets resource centreAccess hundreds of global services and suppliers in our Online DirectoryClick to get to the Relocate Global Online Directory