Some good news for 2022: a lack of CSI might not be as devastating to your citizenship application as was once thought.
We have always known that the Home Office could exercise discretion to forgive a CSI problem. What we didn’t know is how generously that discretion seems to have been exercised. In fact, it was recently reported that nobody has been refused British citizenship for a lack of CSI, and this is welcome news indeed.
But before you throw caution to the wind, we conclude this article with a couple of warnings to anyone with a CSI problem. We always have, (and likely always will!), recommend a cautious approach when dealing with the Home Office.
Contact us today if you’d like to discuss your naturalisation application with one of our immigration specialists.
Truth Legal and CSI
In late 2020, our Head of Immigration Louis MacWilliam published a blog article entitled ‘Naturalisation and the CSI Problem’. The article proved extremely popular among would-be British citizens tackling the thorny issue of CSI.
We also published the following video which shows a CSI discussion between Louis and Truth Legal founder, Andrew Gray:
What is the ‘CSI problem’?
For those lucky enough not to know, CSI stands for Comprehensive Sickness Insurance. CSI is a complex web of overlapping regulations and guidance, but the key threads are as follows:
- When someone applies to naturalise as a British citizen, they need to show that they have been lawfully resident in the UK for five years, or three years if married to a British citizen.
- By a separate and somewhat hidden requirement, they must also show that they have not been in the UK unlawfully at any time in the last ten years.
- According to EU Regulations, a European citizen will be considered lawfully resident in another EU Member State (as the UK was), if they are a qualifying person.
- A qualifying person is defined as a worker, a self-employed person, a student with CSI, or a self-sufficient person with CSI.
It was that last bit which often caught people out.
How did the CSI problem affect Europeans?
UK universities were a popular choice for Europeans, many of whom arrived here to study as young adults and stayed after graduation. The requirement for students to hold CSI was poorly publicised and generally unknown. It worked away in the background to make residence unlawful for thousands of Europeans who had no idea they were doing anything wrong.
They then had a nasty shock when, years later, they came to apply for British citizenship. The application would reveal chunks of time in an applicant’s history where, completely unknown to them, they had been unlawfully resident in the UK. This made them now potentially ineligible for British citizenship.
CSI and Brexit
The CSI problem was complicated and compounded by Brexit.
Under the EU Settlement Scheme, Europeans could be granted settled or pre-settled status in the UK without too much analysis of their immigration history. Many saw this as a ‘green light’ for their immigration history, compounding the shock of a CSI problem at the next, more complicated, stage of applying for British citizenship.
So where are we now?
The UK Home Office has always resisted calls for clarity on the subject of CSI. The protestations of Europeans and their immigration advisors went unheard, as did calls for the unjust CSI mechanism to be scrapped.
In the confusion, Truth Legal continued to recommend a cautious approach to clients applying to naturalise as British.
Then, earlier this year and seemingly out of the blue, the Government confirmed that in practice, no citizenship application had been refused purely on the basis of a CSI problem:
“I am pleased to say that, to date, I am not aware of anyone having been refused naturalisation solely because they did not have CSI” – Baroness Susan Williams, Home Office Minister
“No one has been refused British citizenship purely on the basis of the CSI requirement in free movement regulations” – Kevin Foster, Home Office Minister
This comes as a surprise, albeit a welcome one, to anyone who has watched the CSI issue play out over the last few years.
How to approach CSI in 2022
Although the ministers’ comments provide welcome clarity and reassurance, they are yet to be translated into firm Home Office guidance. As long as the guidance remains unchanged, there is a risk that CSI could be used as the basis of a refusal.
Indeed, the words “solely” and “purely” in the ministers’ comments are important. It may be that CSI is still being used as a back-up ground for refusing citizenship, where applicants have other eligibility problems which might not be enough on their own for a refusal.
We know that solicitors are notoriously risk-averse, and we suspect that immigration solicitors are particularly so, but we will always advocate for caution when dealing with the Home Office.
Our caution and risk-aversion have meant that no Truth Legal client has ever had a naturalisation application refused. It’s a record we’re very proud of, and one we won’t be risking any time soon.
If you’re worried about absences, you might find our specialist content useful: Will Excess Absences Affect my Naturalisation Application?
And get in touch if you’d like to discuss any aspect of your naturalisation application with one of our immigration specialists.