Rick Meretens, The Financial Times, 13.07.2016
GROWING NUMBER OF PEOPLE LOOK TO GUARANTEE ABILITY TO LIVE AND WORK ON CONTINENT
European countries including Germany, Hungary and Poland have seen a surge in citizenship inquiries from British people looking to guarantee their ability to live and work on the continent.
Depending on the outcome of exit negotiations, Britons face losing the right to move freely throughout Europe after the country voted to leave the EU — unless they can obtain citizenship of another EU member state.
Inquiries about German citizenship by UK nationals increased tenfold since the referendum three weeks ago. The German embassy in London told the FT that 200-250 requests for information on how to apply for citizenship have been received per day since the referendum result was announced, compared with an average of 20-25 daily inquiries a month earlier.
The Hungarian consulate has received 150 inquiries since the vote, while it said it had received less than 10 during the rest of this year.
The Swedish Migration Agency has seen citizenship applications by UK nationals rise from an average of 20 a week to 316 in the two weeks after the referendum. In the same period, the Polish consulate in London received 350 queries regarding citizenship, while barely 100 formal applications for Polish citizenship were filed by UK nationals in 2015.
It is hard to tell what the chances are of the citizenship applications succeeding — people living in the UK depend on their ancestry to qualify.
The German embassy said UK residents would need a German parent. “There are certainly quite a number of people where it seems obvious they won’t qualify. We don’t have any figures for that though,” said Norman Walter, a spokesman.
Other countries have more liberal conditions. Italy, which has received around 500 email requests at its UK embassy since the Brexit vote, offers citizenship to foreigners who can prove that at least one of their grandparents was Italian.
“Many families moved from Italy to the UK because of World War Two and tried to conceal their Italian identity after they arrived. They only spoke English and some even changed their names,” said Francesco Ruiz, a spokesman. “But now many British people seem to rediscover their Italian roots. Most of them would never have applied if there would not have been a Leave vote.”
Anyone who has a grandparent born in Ireland is entitled to apply for a passport and the country’s foreign minister has appealed for people not to rush to apply because it could overwhelm the country’s passport service.
EU citizenship grants the liberty to move and reside freely within any of the 28 member states and also to open a business in any EU country without additional restrictions applying.
Although all EU citizens are granted the same rights within the European bloc, not all EU passports offer the same degree of freedom to roam internationally. Analysts rank German and Swedish passports highest, because they offer visa-free access to the largest number of countries, while Bulgarian and Romanian citizenship are considered least advantageous.
Yet that has not deterred inquiries for a Bulgarian passport. The country’s London embassy has received 15 citizenship inquiries by British people since June 24. “We usually don’t receive such kind of requests so this is a new thing for us,” said a spokesman.