||EU citizens are our friends, family and neighbours and we want them to stay. EU citizens have made a huge contribution to this country and will play a key role in cementing Britain’s status as an outward-looking, global leader after Brexit.
The Prime Minister has made it clear that all EU, EEA and Swiss citizens resident here by exit day will be welcome to stay, regardless of whether or not the UK leaves the EU with a deal. We have given an unequivocal guarantee that they will have the absolute certainty of the continued right to live and remain in the UK after Brexit.
The EU Settlement Scheme is a free and easy way for EU, EEA and Swiss citizens to get the UK immigration status they need. It enables them to secure their immigration status in UK law, with the same rights to work and access benefits and services as they have now, and the right to travel in and out of the UK.
Applications are free of charge and applicants need only complete three key steps: prove their identity; show that they live in the UK; and declare any criminal convictions.
We have received two million applications and are looking for reasons to grant status, not refuse, and people have until at least December 2020 to apply.
A person who has settled status is able to apply for British citizenship once they meet the requirements.
Citizenship and naturalisation is and always has been a matter for individual Member States and distinct from the issue of free movement rights or our membership of the EU. As such, we are not proposing to treat EEA and Swiss citizens who wish to apply for citizenship any differently from others from outside the EEA who have established themselves in the UK. Citizenship is not a necessary requirement for anybody wanting to live, work or study in the UK or to access benefits.
The requirements for naturalisation are set out in the British Nationality Act 1981. To qualify, a person needs to meet residential requirements based on a period of continuous lawful residence in the UK, and meet the good character and knowledge of language and life in the United Kingdom requirements. These requirements apply to all foreign nationals who choose to become a British citizen and are intended to show that the applicant has a close and ongoing connection with the UK. The legislation does not differentiate between EEA and other nationals in this respect, and we do not think that we would be justified to treat them differently based on nationality.