The Home Office updated their nationality policy on 15 May 2020 and made it more difficult for European nationals who have settled status to apply for British citizenship.
One of the requirements of the British Nationality Act 1981 is for an applicant to demonstrate that he or she was not at any time in the period of five years ending on the date of the application (or three years if such person is married to a British citizen) in the United Kingdom in breach of the immigration laws.
The difficulty is that a grant of settled status under the new UK government EU Settlement Scheme does not confirm that a person was 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.
It follows that for an EEA national to successfully apply to naturalise as a British citizen one will not only have to show that he or she has settled status, but also satisfy the Home Office by providing additional evidence that they have been in the UK lawfully under the EU law prior to being granted settled status to cover the period of three or five years according to their circumstances.
In order for an EEA national to demonstrate that he or she has lived in the UK lawfully prior to being granted settled or pre-settled status, they will have to demonstrate they have either themselves been a qualified person (worker, self-employed, jobseeker, self-sufficient or a student) or a family member of a qualified person.
These are worrying news for those EU nationals who have lived in the UK as self-sufficient or students and never had a comprehensive medical insurance. Even though they can get settled status under the new scheme, their residence in the UK is deemed to be unlawful under the EEA Regulations. The guidance however states that the Home Office’s caseworkers are able to exercise discretion in cases where an individual have not had a comprehensive medical insurance if appropriate considering their particular circumstances. We assume it would be decided by a caseworker on a case to case basis.
It is very important to mention, that those EU nationals who have been issued with documents certifying their permanent residence under the EU law do not need to provide any additional evidence to prove that they have been residing in the UK lawfully. The document itself is a proof of five years lawful residence in the UK. Furthermore, compliance with the EU law is only relevant to the residence prior to the grant of pre-settled or settled status as an applicant can rely on residence since being granted pre-settled or settled for nationality purposes without need to produce any additional evidence.