I am an International (non EU) student in the UK. I am about to finish my 4th year of study.

My question is: given my above background, how long do I have to be in the UK before I can apply for citizenship?

The official page says:

To apply for citizenship with permanent residence status you must usually have lived in the UK for 12 months after getting permanent residence status. You also need a permanent residence document that proves you’ve lived in the UK for 5 years - this can be any 5 year period.

Does this mean I have to stay here for another 2 years?

I'm not sure if the above stipulation mandates that you should also be working for the 5 years + 12 months, in which my 4 years of study wouldn't count towards the stay requirement

1 Answer 1


Permanent residence is a status available only to EU citizens, nationals of EEA countries, citizens of Switzerland, and family members of those people who derive a right of free movement under the circumstances laid out in EU directive 2004/38/EC. It therefore doesn't apply to you as "an international (non EU) student in the UK."

In other words, you appear to have overlooked the paragraph that precedes the one quoted in the question, in particular the conditional clause in the first half of the sentence:

If you or a family member are from the EU, EEA or Switzerland, you usually get permanent residence status automatically after living in the UK for 5 years.

Since you've mentioned nothing that suggests any of the other routes is open to you, the only one that remains is the route for those with indefinite leave to remain, or ILR. There is no automatic or particularly easy way to get ILR as a foreign student. The most likely would be to marry a British citizen or someone with ILR or to find an employer willing to hire you and sponsor you for permission to remain in the UK in connection with the job. You could also marry an EU citizen and eventually get settled status, but you might need to do that before the end of this year; I'm not certain about that.

  • 1
    It may not be obvious: You get married in order to form a permanent relationship to a person, how this affects citizenship is just a side effect. Getting married just to get citizenship is likely an illegal sham marriage.
    – gnasher729
    Oct 19, 2020 at 16:16
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    @gnasher729 that is correct. If the government can show that the parties entered into the marriage for the purpose of circumventing immigration law, the application for ILR or settled status will be refused.
    – phoog
    Oct 19, 2020 at 16:38
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    @nz_21 You missed the requirements for the 5 years: you must have had five years of either Indefinite Leave to Remain, or Settled Status (aka Indefinite Leave to Remain under the EE Settlement Scheme), or Indefinite Leave to Enter the UK. From your original question, it doesn't seem as though you qualify for any of these. Oct 19, 2020 at 19:30

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