UK Citizenship

Getting rather annoyed with the UK government right now. When I apply for citizenship, I just want to know what the damned laws are. The general path for a work permit holder like myself is to wait for a period of time, apply for "indefinite leave to remain" (also known as "settlement"), wait a year and then apply for citizenship (naturalisation).

Previously this mean wait five years, apply for settlement, then wait another year for citizenship, for a total of six years. It used to be a year shorter, but the Labour government was kind enough (cough) to change that while my first work permit was being processed and they didn't "grandfather" in people who already had one. Thus, if you were on the cusp of applying for citizenship, Labour jerked the rug out from under your feet and made you wait another year.

So now I have another two years to wait in the UK before citizenship and Leïla and I are considering our options. Right now the Eurozone is fragile. France has threatened to pull out of the euro and other euro-zone countries are struggling. Though it's doubtful, there is more and more talk about the euro falling and with that, Europe could potentially splinter. I consider this highly unlikely as it would be disastrous for Europe to fall apart, but it leaves me in an awkward situation.

Once I'm married to Leïla for four or more years, I can apply for French citizenship and with that comes a French passport. However, only two more years in the UK means I can apply for British citizenship and that lovely red passport. Due to how the various laws work, I can legally claim citizenship in three countries and have three passports. If something disastrous happened to tear Europe apart, this would be a fantastic safety net.

The downside means staying in the UK for another two years. I don't mind that, but Leïla's been rather disappointed with this country and I do have to confess, it would be nice to freely travel around the continent, picking up jobs (there are plenty of them in my field, but not in France, annoyingly enough).

So who cares? Why don't I just take off with Leïla and rely on my marriage? Well, there are two odd problems with that. First, the French government is not required to give me citizenship after four years -- but I can probably get it -- and even then that doesn't mean that Europe will necessarily hold together at that point and that could leave me with only living in France as an option (not the worst option, to be honest).

The second problem with that, and this sounds gruesome but given my legal status, I have to be honest: what happens if Leïla gets hit by a bus and we're living in, say, Barcelona? Or heck, if things went bad and we divorced? My legal status is all of a sudden very much in the air. I could face deportation back to the US. It's very weird being on the other side of the coin, but I have to say that Europe is treating me a hell of a lot better than the US treats its immigrants. I shouldn't complain.

Except ...

The Home Office has changed their Web site again. the requirements now read (emphasis mine):

  • been resident in the UK for at least five years (this is known as the residential qualifying period); and
  • been present in the UK five years before the date of your application; and
  • not spent more than 450 days outside the UK during the five-year period; and
  • not spent more than 90 days outside the UK in the last 12 months of the five-year period; and
  • not been in breach of the Immigration Rules at any stage during the five-year period.

Wait! What? We're back to five years now? I found a few references to "five years for naturalisation" on their Web site, but their settlement page makes it clear I still need five years for settlement. That doesn't seem right and I'm confused.

And yesterday I was talking to a friend from India who's on the cusp of apply for her citizenship and she said they're going to announce new rules in 2011. Are they going to change this on me again? I've been trying to find information about this (and it seems likely with the new government), but I am getting pretty damned tired of "here's a new set of rules you have to follow".

I honestly have no idea where I'm going to be in a couple of years.

Update: it's been pointed out to me that the "immigration time restrictions" on the naturalisation page states that I must have been free of those restrictions for at least 12 months. That should mean "indefinite leave to remain" (settlement), but they don't do a great job explaining this). They really need to lay things out more clearly.

  • Current Mood: irritated irritated
To be honest, while the Eurozone may be breaking up (although I think that too is unlikely), I think one can safely discount the scenario of the entire European project disintegrating. In a worst case scenario it may go back to being little more than the European Free Trade Association, although that would in all likelihood retain the freedom of movement, establishment, etc. I would be very surprised indeed, if we got to a point where European citizens were no longer permitted to establish themselves anywhere they chose in Europe.

The "odd-one-out", however, may well be the UK- while the BNP & UKIP got thankfully short shrift at the election, and the generally Europhobe Tories did not get an absolute majority, the UK is the only country I could seriously see pulling out of Europe (which is one of the reasons I'm contemplating whether to get a British passport myself).

That said, one of the requirements for naturalisation is: "You must be of sound mind."- which might well be a catch 22 situation, as no one in their sound mind would apply for a UK passport, surely... ;)

One point to consider (& I don't know how soon you plan on getting married) is that you should be free from immigration restrictions as the spouse of an EU citizen- i.e. if you are married to a French lady, that should qualify you for indefinite leave to remain. In that case, you should be able to reduce the total time period required to 5 years (as you would be able to start your 12-month period earlier). In any event, it may be worth while looking into the exceptions that are possible ("We have discretion to allow applications from people who do not meet this requirement. For details of how we apply discretion, you should read the Discretion on immigration time restrictions page." from the UK Border Agency Website here:

In any event, I would try to go for both the UK and the French passport if you have the opportunity to.
One small nit to pick. The US treats it legal immigrants rather well, it's the illegal immigrants we treat like criminals. Europe treats illegal immigrants just as well by giving them a ticket back home.
I think you've missed the point of the British immigration rules...

If there's one character trait the Brits value above all else it's a stiff upper lip in the face of adversity.
And anyone who can get through their buerocratic tangle to successfully claim the red book, well... They've endured and overcome adversity...

Wishing you a very happy birthday!


PS: Sounds like a complicated process to become a UK citizen...but I'll send positive energy your way.