What is Proof of Freedom from Immigration Time Restrictions?
As specialists in immigration law, we receive many enquiries from migrants regarding vague or confusing immigration rules or policies. While moves have been made in recent years to simplify the language used, there are still occasions where the terms used by the Home Office and UK Visas and Immigration (UKVI) are not helpful to prospective applicants. One such term is ‘freedom of immigration time restrictions’, which is typically used when applying for citizenship through naturalisation. In this article, we will explain what is meant by ‘freedom of immigration time restrictions’ and how this can be proven when applying for citizenship through naturalisation in the UK.
What is meant by ‘freedom of immigration time restrictions?
Being free from immigration time restrictions in the context of naturalisation implies that you have an immigration status which means you have already exceeded the required qualifying period for indefinite leave to remain (ILR). In most cases, this will mean you have been in the UK on a visa which provides a route to permanent settlement for at least five years (this is less in some circumstances). EU nationals applying under the EU Settlement Scheme (EUSS) are also able to gain full settled status, which is effectively the same as ILR after living in the UK for five years. When applying for naturalisation in the UK, in most cases, you must have been free of these time restrictions for at least one year.
There is an exception, however, for those with a spouse visa. The immigration guidance for citizenship through naturalisation (Booklet AN - Naturalisation Booklet – The Requirements) states, “if you are not married to or the civil partner of a British citizen you should have been free of immigration time restrictions during the last 12 months of the five-year qualifying period”.
When you apply for citizenship through naturalisation, you will need to provide proof that you have been free of immigration time restrictions for the time required.
How can I prove I am free of immigration time restrictions?
The way that you prove you have been free of immigration time restrictions will depend on your circumstances. The Home Office states, “Usually there is a stamp or sticker in your passport, or you have a biometric residence permit, saying that you have indefinite leave to enter or remain or no time limit on your stay. But you may have a letter from the Home Office saying that you are free from immigration conditions. If you do not have a passport or letter which says this and you have lived here many years, you may still be free from an immigration time restriction”.
Suitable proof may include one of the following:
- a passport showing you have permission to remain permanently in the UK
- a Home Office letter showing permission to remain permanently in the UK
- a biometric residence permit (BRP) showing ILR, ILE or no time limits
- a certificate of entitlement to the right of abode
- if you came to the UK as an asylum seeker, you should have evidence that you we're not in the UK without permission between exhausting your appeal rights and being granted indefinite leave to remain.
- evidence of being freely landed if you did not receive specific permission because you were freely landed as a Commonwealth citizen before 1971 or arrived as a child on your parent’s passport.
I am an EU/EEA/Swiss national, how can I prove I am free of time restrictions?
In the past, one way to do this was to provide details of your permanent residence card. You may have received a permanent residence card for the UK if you lived here for five years continuously on or after 30th April 2006 but before 30th June 2021. You would have been free of immigration time restrictions at the five-year point. The rules now state, however, that it is no longer possible to use a permanent residence card to gain citizenship; “From 1st July 2021 onwards, however, you can no longer apply for citizenship based on your permanent residence. You need to show us that you are free from immigration time restrictions in a different way”.
To show you are free from immigration time restrictions when applying after 1st July 2021, you will need to provide evidence that you:
- have ILR under the EUSS – i.e., full settled status
- have been granted indefinite leave to remain under the Immigration Rules on another basis
- are entitled by virtue of diplomatic status to exemption from UK immigration control
- are an Irish national
Remember, unless you are applying for naturalisation as a spouse visa holder, you must have been free of these time restrictions for at least one year.
The guidance further clarifies, “If you are not free from immigration time restrictions in another way, you will need to apply for indefinite leave to remain under the EUSS for permission to stay in the UK before you seek to naturalise. The scheme deadline is 30th June 2021, but applications can be made later in certain circumstances where there are reasonable grounds to do so”. To make a late application under the EUSS after 30th June 2021, you will need a valid reason for doing so; these include where:
- a parent, guardian or Local Authority has failed to apply on behalf of a child
- a person has or had a serious medical condition, which meant they were unable to apply by the relevant deadline
- someone is a victim of modern slavery or is in an abusive relationship
- someone is isolated, vulnerable or did not have the digital skills to access the application process
- a person was unable to apply by the relevant deadline for compelling practical or compassionate reasons – including in light of the coronavirus pandemic.
How Reiss Edwards can assist you
The rules surrounding naturalisation can be deeply complex, especially if you have a complicated immigration history and you are also applying on behalf of your dependant family members. As one of the most respected immigration law firms in the UK, we can assess the situation for you and your loved ones and recommend the most straightforward path towards citizenship for all of your needs. Our immigration lawyers can handle the application process for you if required, including checking all of your documents and handling any queries raised by the Home Office. We will also provide a detailed covering letter to ensure that the Home Office has all of the information they need to grant your naturalisation as quickly as possible.