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If an EU citizen want to get British citizenship, does he have to live 5 years in UK to be eligible or there are any relaxed rules for the EU citizens (not married to any British citizen).

Also if an EU citizen studies (Bachelor/masters) in UK, would that time count towards the citizenship period? Or there is any requirement that the time counts only after having job etc?

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Unless you get married to a UK citizen (in which case different laws apply), the earliest you can get a citizenship is after six (6) years after you have first arrived in the UK for the purpose of living there. It doesn't matter whether you are studying, working, or just living in the country on your own being self-sufficient.

Why six? It is because you need to be a Permanent Resident for at least one year before you can obtain a citizenhsip, and you only become a Permanent Resident after living five years in the UK.

You can find the criteria to get naturalized in detail here, more specifically:

  • lived in the UK for at least the 5 years before the date of your application
  • spent no more than 450 days outside the UK during those 5 years
  • spent no more than 90 days outside the UK in the last 12 months
  • been granted (...) permanent residence if you’re an EEA national (and you have a permanent residence card or document that shows you have permanent residence)
  • had (...) permanent residence if you’re an EEA national in the UK for the last 12 months with a permanent residence card or document that shows you have permanent residence
  • not broken any immigration laws while in the UK

And you can find details about Permanent Residence here stating explicitly that being a student is also fine:

You must normally have lived in the UK for a continuous period of five years as:

  • an EEA national ‘qualified person’ (worker, self-employed, self-sufficient, student or jobseeker)

However, the definition of 'student' is not as simple as it first appears (from The Immigration (European Economic Area) Regulations 2006):

(d)“student” means a person who—

(i)is enrolled at a private or public establishment, included on the Department for Education and Skills' Register of Education and Training Providers(2) or financed from public funds, for the principal purpose of following a course of study, including vocational training;

(ii)has comprehensive sickness insurance cover in the United Kingdom; and

(iii)assures the Secretary of State, by means of a declaration, or by such equivalent means as the person may choose, that he has sufficient resources not to become a burden on the social assistance system of the United Kingdom during his period of residence.

Expect to have to prove you had health insurance whilst you were a student.

Note, if you are not an EEA citizen similar laws apply, but you need to have an ILR instead of a PR to be eligible for naturalization

Side note: it is true that the original laws are misleading, as they only state you need to be in the UK for five years, and only later tell you about the extra requirement of having a PR for a year, which in itself takes 5 years to obtain. However this six years rule is explicitly stated in the AN Guide Booklet:

But remember that, unless you are married to or the civil partner of a British citizen, you should normally have held permanent resident status for 12 months before applying for naturalisation. This means that you may need to wait until you have been in the United Kingdom for 6 years before you can apply.

  • Just one more thing to note: The EEA national is also required to have specifically obtained a PR card before they can apply for citizenship. This doesn't actually affect the timelines described in this answer, but it is necessary step that cannot be overlooked. As for the rules being 'relaxed' for EEA nationals, I'd say the fact that you need no visa, have no financial requirement, and don't even have to have a particular reason to enter the country (or stay as long as you like without restriction) is relaxed enough! – ouflak Dec 27 '15 at 11:13
  • So if you lived in the UK for ten years, and never bothered to get a PR card, you have to apply and wait until you receive the PR card. Which I read can take six months now, because suddenly there are millions of EU citizens who want one. – gnasher729 Dec 2 '16 at 0:06

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