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- Meghan Markle is in the process of applying for British citizenship.
- Applying for British citizenship takes years, and applicants are required to stay in the UK for 270 days over a three-year period.
- Although she is married to royalty, the Duchess of Sussex has not received any special treatment throughout her application process, according to Prince Harry’s communication secretary.
- Markle may have put her citizenship application in jeopardy by returning to Canada following the duke and duchess’ announcement that they would be taking a “step back” from the royal family.
- But a royal aide released a statement saying there was no change to the duchess’ application at this time, and that she still intends to become a UK citizen, according to The Telegraph.
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Any American Anglophile who’s thought about moving to the UK can tell you getting a visa is not easy.
Even if you’re engaged or married to a British citizen, a visa is not a given. For one thing, there are hefty financial requirements involved. And for another, even if you’re able to come into the country as the fiancé of a British citizen, that doesn’t necessarily mean you’re allowed to work or hold a job.
You might think Meghan Markle was able to skirt these requirements, due to her marrying a man who happens to be sixth in line to the British throne, but the duchess has had to jump through the same hoops as any other American seeking British citizenship.
Prince Harry’s communications secretary, Jason Knauf, let the world know the duchess wasn’t getting any special treatment throughout the visa process. As reported by the BBC, Knauf said she’d be “compliant with immigration requirements at all times.”
“I can also say she intends to become a UK citizen and will go through the process of that, which some of you may know takes a number of years,” he added.
All Americans marrying a British citizen need to meet stringent financial requirements in order to get a visa.
- Chris Jackson/Getty Images
A British person who wants to bring a non-British or non-EU citizen into the country as their spouse must either prove a combined income is £18,600 (over $24,000) or prove they have £16,000 (or $20,982) in the bank, according to the UK government’s website.
The requirements increase by several thousand pounds for every child you may have at the time of applying for the visa.
This financial component probably wasn’t an issue for the Duke and Duchess of Sussex, but for many other happy couples, it can be a major setback.
If she wasn’t American, she would’ve had to prove proficiency in English.
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This is one area in which Americans have a leg up on many other countries. Anyone applying for British citizenship must take an English-language proficiency test unless they’re from the European Union, one of the Commonwealth Nations that are formerly part of the British Empire, or the US.
Because Meghan Markle is an American citizen, she was exempt from this test.
After entering the country on a “family visa,” she had to marry Harry within six months of applying.
Spouses and fiancés of British citizens apply for entry on a “family visa.” According to the official government guidelines, fiancés must “marry or enter into a civil partnership in the UK within 6 months of arriving.”
Markle was still waiting to become a British citizen two years after moving to the UK.
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In November 2019, a friend of the duchess’ told the Mail Online: “Meghan is not yet a British citizen. It might seem extraordinary, given that she’s been married to the Queen’s grandson for 18 months, but she accepts that it’s a slow process.”
According to the official government guidelines, the spouse of a British citizen is eligible to apply for citizenship after they have lived in the UK for at least three years.
The government website also states that pplicants should not have “spent more than 270 days outside the UK during the 3 years before your application.”
Markle’s return to Canada following her and Prince Harry’s announcement that they would be stepping back from the royal family could put her citizenship application at risk.
- Daniel Leal-Olivas/Pool/AFP via Getty Images
Prince Harry and Meghan Markle released a statement announcing they would be taking a “step back” as senior members of the royal family on Wednesday.
The couple wrote in their announcement that they plan to split their time between the UK and North America, though they have yet to specify where in North America they will be based. Markle also reportedly returned to Canada to be with the couple’s son Archie following the announcement.
The time in Canada could put her over the allotted 270 days she is permitted to stay away from the UK since her application for British citizenship was filed.
But a royal aide released a statement saying there was no change to the duchess’ citizenship application at this time, according to The Telegraph.
- Toby Melville/ Getty Images
Markle’s application process won’t be complete for “several” years according to the aide, as reported by The Telegraph.
The Home Office website states that applicants “may be exempt from the residency requirements if your partner works abroad either for the UK government or an organization closely linked to the government,” as is the case with Markle.
In addition, the duchess’ legal representation will likely be able to argue that Markle’s absences from the UK have extenuating circumstances, as a result of her required travel as a result of her job.
However, if the Duke and Duchess of Sussex take up permanent residence in the United States or Canada, it may be more difficult for them to prove she is truly a citizen of Britain, though their home at Frogmore Cottage in Kensington will help their case.
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