Let’s get this out of the way. No, I am not planning to become a British citizen (yet). Many Brits have asked me this in confusion as they’re all trying to find a way to get a European passport themselves.
The truth is, Brexit has put a lot of doubt on all of us. For Brits their future in Europe is unclear, and for European citizens their future in the UK is unclear. This doubt is painful for everyone, and the government has made this worse by not guaranteeing that EU citizens will have the right to stay in the UK after Brexit.
While I’m both a Dutch and Italian citizen, I only hold 1 passport (a Dutch one). But more importantly: I love London. I’ve lived here for more than 10 years now, having come here as a student in 2007. I am looking to buy a house here soon, and with that risk I’d like to increase my options of staying here. One of them is to get a UK citizenship and to get there I’d first need to apply for my EEA(PR).
Will this mean you won’t be Dutch anymore?
Yes, this is an option. Dutch law does not currently allow me to become British and stay Dutch. As a consequence I am also looking to apply for an Italian passport for the first time, just to keep my options open.
How did you apply?
Applying can be done both online and using a paper form. I used the online form, but it still required me to print and mail all the paperwork to the Home Office! At least it was easier than writing it all out by pen.
The cost of applying is £65, even if your application is rejected for dubious reasons.
What does the form ask?
This is where things get interesting. In essence, the form will try to determine if you have been legally in the UK for the last 5 years, and have held a job (or studied) in that period.
What’s interesting though is that a lot of the questions assume you’ve only lived in the UK for about 5 years, not the 10 I have. This gets weird when they start to ask you:
“Date you first entered the UK”.
Bloody hell, that could have been decades ago for some people, what if your parents brought you here on holiday, does that count? I mean I know when this was, but the follow up question is where this becomes problematic:
“Have you had any absences from the UK since you entered? Please provide details of each trip.”
I actually have a pretty good log of the last 5 years of trips I made, thanks to Tripit, so what I did instead was pick a date before 5 years ago (11 September 2011) when I knew I entered the UK. I assumed that they really just wanted to know my last 5 years of travel.
The rest of the form is pretty straightforward: when did you enter, when did you leave and where did you go, what did you do (work) in the UK, how much money did you make, what kind of work did you do, did you study, did you ever get convicted, and have you been a burden to the UK social system?
In the end I payed the £65 and was given a nice PDF to print which included a list of documents to attach.
So what documents did you send?
Here is the list required documents, literally taken from the PDF:
- “Two passport photos for Mr Cristiano Gerard Betta”
- Easy, 5 minutes in a photo booth had that sorted
- “I confirm I will supply one hard copy of my application form and enclose this with my documents when sending to the Home Office.”
- Sure thing, good thing I still own a printer
- “Proof of identity and nationality - for example, your valid passport, travel document or national identity card”
- Ha! Like I was going to send them my passport, I am not crazy!
- “Evidence of employment – for example, employer’s letter, wage slips, bank statements showing receipt of wages, P60s”
- I wasn’t sure I had all of those, and in the end I could not find the P60 for every company so I just sent a P45 instead.
- “Evidence of self-employment - for example, tax self-assessment forms, proof of payment of class 2 or 4 national insurance contributions, invoices for work done, business accounts, business bank statements”
- Bloody hell, that’s a lot of different documents with very different consequences. If you choose invoices do you need to send every one of them? Bank accounts seems equally vague.
- Good thing I have a very good accountant who has all this paperwork for me. You should use him.
- Interestingly I had to submit paperwork for my first Limited company I owned in the UK many years back. This company was started before September 2011 (when I stated I entered the country), so I was really worried this might raise some flags. It did not.
- “Proof of residence in UK for the relevant period - for example, utility bills, bank statements, council tax (or equivalent) bills, NHS (or equivalent) letters, mortgage or tenancy agreements”
- I decided Council Tax statements were probably the easiest way to go.
I’ve had a lot of different jobs in the last 10 years. I’ve worked twice in a regular employer/employee fashion, I’ve worked as a contractor through 2 limited companies, of which one is younger than a year, and I’ve worked for a startup I was a founder of. As a result my paperwork was a tad more complicated than most people I assume.
In the end I sent them the following:
- A passport scan
- 2 passport photos
- The printed form
- A print out of a spreadsheet of my travel records from 2011-2016 (I applied in September 2016)
- Copies of:
- My P60/P45s from 2011-2016
- My Council Tax bills from 2008/2009 till 2016/2017
- My national insurance contributions at Limited Company #1, and a proof of cease of self employment for that company from 2011
- My tax return for my time at co-owned Startup #1
- A note explaining that I have not paid tax for my most recent Limited Company yet, as it’s less than a year old
Figuring out what exact documents to send for my own companies was the trickiest and most vague. I mean, I had the P60s for most of them but I was not sure if that was enough. As a result I decided “more is more” and just sent them as much as I could.
You did not mail them your passport?
No I did not, I don’t trust the Royal Mail with such important documents.
Instead the UK government offers a “European passport return service”. This is basically a service for any EU citizen where you go in with your paperwork and passport, they check your passport, stamp and sign it, and then they send off all your paperwork for you.
The cost of this is another £10 but it’s just worth it versus the risk of losing your passport. I do recommend making an appointment, even if they tell you on the phone you do not need one. Trust me, you need one, I found this out the hard way.
How long did it take?
I sent off my paperwork on 18 September 2016, and it arrived with the Home Office on 21 September 2016. I expected this process to take a few months, probably 6 months or more. Additionally I expected it to be rejected, given the unclear requirements I explained above.
Imagine my surprise when I received a package on 11 February 2017 with my document, approved! The letter with the document was dated 9 February 2017, which means it took them just 98 working days to process my application!
What’s cool is that my application has been approved retroactively, from 21 September 2016. This means that come 21 September 2017 I will be eligible for my UK citizenship.
The UK government still hasn’t clarified if EU citizens can stay in the UK after Brexit. I assume we will, but it sucks to be a bargaining chip between the UK and European leaders.
If I do need to adopt UK citizenship (when Brexit goes into effect) I will most probably need to part with my Dutch citizenship. I’m lucky I have 2 nationalities already, and the Italian rules on double nationality are a lot more flexible than the Dutch. So the next step is to get an Italian passport.
I hope this is of some help to other EU citizens looking to apply for this document. Let me know if you have any questions.