In our blog post in August, we outlined the impact of Brexit on German citizens in the UK and their options with regards to residency and citizenship. This article covers new developments since the publication of the plans for the new EU Settlement Scheme by the Home Office.
The Home Office is running its second trial for a newly presented post-Brexit EU Settlement Scheme. The programme is set to open fully by 30 March 2019 and will enable EU citizens to continue living in the UK after the end of the implementation period on 31 December 2020.
What’s the issue?
The settlement scheme will replace current EU legislation for permanent residency in the UK. This is likely to change the route to British citizenship for EU citizens and Germans in particular.
As it stands, Germans who naturalise as British citizens after 29 March 2019 will lose their German citizenship unless they obtain express advance permission from the German government (Beibehaltungsgenehmigung). Although the German government has debated passing legislation to extend a grace period to allow for dual-nationality until 31 December 2020, this is only a proposal and remains contingent on the UK securing and ratifying an exit deal with the UK; a scenario that is looking increasingly unlikely.
However, even if the German government passes legislation allowing German citizens to naturalise in the UK post-Brexit without losing their German citizenship, the new EU settlement scheme may cause delays. This is because the Home Office has not specified yet how the scheme will be connected to naturalisation in the UK. Current legislation gives EU citizens the status of a permanent resident automatically after five years of qualifying activity, with eligibility for naturalisation one year after that date in most cases. The date on which permanent residence was acquired can be much earlier than the date on which an EU permanent residence card is issued. For example, if an EU citizen has been working in the UK for 8 years and now makes a well-prepared application for an EU PR card, then the letter accompanying the PR card would record that PR was acquired 3 years earlier, thus permitting that person to immediately apply for naturalisation.
The new settlement scheme, on the other hand, may, in fact, correspond to the status of Indefinite Leave to Remain (ILR) for non-EU citizens. This would mean that once settlement has been granted, applicants will have to wait for one more year after the date of grant before they can naturalise in the UK. In practice, a German citizen who received settled status under the new scheme in May 2019 would have to wait until May 2020 before they could naturalise in the UK; regardless of how many years they had lived in the UK. If this were the case, they would then only have seven months to naturalise in the UK before the end of the implementation period in December 2020 when they would lose their right to retain German nationality.
What can be done?
For now, scenarios under the new EU settlement scheme and timeline under the implementation period remain hypothetical. However, it demonstrates the lack of clarity surrounding the future for German citizens to who wish to naturalise in the UK. Therefore, it is recommended that Germans who are eligible and would like to naturalise in the UK do so as soon as possible as there is just enough time left for them to naturalise before 29 March 2018 if they apply now. However, if they apply at a later stage, there is no guarantee that their application will go through before 29 March 2019.
Whether or not to naturalise in the UK is a very important and personal decision and may depend on specific personal circumstances such as family in other EU member states. Circumstances may vary on a case by case basis and specialist advice is highly recommended either through a solicitor regulated immigration advisor or the German Embassy. The Embassy also holds UK-wide events on Brexit for German citizens living in the UK for further information.
It is important that an application for an EU Permanent Residence card is well prepared to ensure prompt success and a date of recognition of PR as early as possible for a naturalisation to be submitted as soon as possible.
To find out if you are eligible, contact Passportia on +44 (0) 20 3695 5383, or using the form in the sidebar if using a desktop.