British citizenship for EEA nationals: date of acquisition of permanent residence

In November 2015 the Home Office introduced a requirement for all EEA nationals applying for naturalisation as British citizens to first apply to the Home Office for a document certifying that they have become permanently resident in the UK.  This in itself was subject to much debate - see for example our earlier blog post on this issue and the extensive comment section below it.

As is well-established and well-known by now, EEA nationals can apply for their permanent residence document after completing 5 years of continuous residence and exercise of their EEA treaty rights (work, self-employment, study etc) in the UK.  

In order to be eligible to apply for British citizenship (which is different to permanent residence), one must not only have obtained a document from the Home Office certifying that they are permanently residence in the UK, but must also have completed a further full year in the UK after acquisition of permanent residence. This has caused continuing confusion amongst EEA nationals and indeed the Home Office since November because it was unclear to many whether this full year had to be taken from the date of issuance of the document certifying permanent residence, or the date which it can be evidenced that the EEA national acquired permanent residence.  Lawyers have always maintained that as a matter of law, the relevant date is the date of acquisition of permanent residence (not the date of issuance of the document, which in many cases can be several months or years after the date of acquisition).  

In a glimmer of good news, the Home Office have now confirmed to the Immigration Law Practitioners' Association (ILPA) that from next week they intend to ensure that the letter accompanying permanent residence documentation will confirm the date on which the applicant is deemed to have acquired permanent residence, based on the information provided with their application.  The Home Office have further indicated that they will be amending the EEA (PR) guidance notes to make it clear that applicants applying for permanent residence documentation can provide evidence for historical periods of qualifying residence. The new version of the guidance notes will be published shortly.

This is a positive step forwards and should clear up any confusion amongst EEA nationals applying for British citizenship.  For many, this may well mean that they can lodge an application for British citizenship almost immediately upon receipt of the permanent residence document (provided that they fulfil all other requirements of course).