The number of EU citizens applying for British citizenship has nearly doubled in the wake of the Brexit referendum, new figures show.
The 80% rise in requests comes amid uncertainty over the status of EU citizens once Britain leaves the European Union in March 2019.
This week, a different set of statistics showed thousands of EU citizens have been leaving the EU – bringing down the overall net migration figure.
According to a Home Office report, there were 28,502 applications for British citizenship from EU nationals in the year ending June 2017 – up from 15,871 in the previous 12 months.
Applications by citizens from Eastern European countries – among a group of 10 nations that joined the bloc in 2004 – rose by 45% to 9,841 in the year to June.
Of those, 6,179 alone came from Polish people.
Applications from some of the long-term members of the bloc rose sharply. Among them there were:
:: 2,950 applications from Italians
:: 2,508 applications from French citizens
:: 2,338 applications from Germans
The EU figure bucks the general downward trend in the overall numbers of foreigners seeking citizenship, which stood at 135,912 and was down 8% in the same period.
The rights of more than three million EU citizens in the UK – and of 1.3m Britons living across the Channel – is one of the key issues of negotiations with Brussels.
Both sides have called for a swift resolution, but the role of the European Court of Justice has emerged as a main stumbling block.
The EU wants it to safeguard the rights of EU citizens after Britain leaves the union, while the UK insists “direct jurisdiction” of the court in the country comes to an end with Brexit.
Other figures show a sharp rise in the number of documents issued to EU nationals certifying their right to live in the UK permanently, with more than 130,000 handed out in the year to the end of June.
Madeleine Sumption, director of the Migration Observatory at the University of Oxford, said: “Faced with the uncertainty of Brexit, it appears that EU citizens have responded in different ways – some have been trying to solidify their rights to remain in the UK, while others have been voting with their feet and leaving.”
Foreigners must have lived in the UK for at least five years before they can seek British citizenship by naturalisation.
An application costs £1,282 and successful applicants must take an oath of allegiance and pledge to respect the rights, freedoms and laws of the UK during a citizenship ceremony.