The Duke and Duchess of Sussex are stepping down as senior royals and plan to live in Canada for part of the year. But an immigration lawyer has said the move could affect American-born Meghan’s bid for UK citizenship, which she started when she married Prince Harry in May 2018, as there are rules over how much time she spends in Britain.
It takes around five years to get indefinite leave to remain, at which point you can apply for citizenship by by naturalisation.
Philip Trott, a partner with law firm Bates Wells, said you can apply even if you are not in the UK all the time.
He told The Times: “That is her plan. Not to be physically here all the time. So that she does not muck up her pathway to British citizenship… there is no harm in being out, as long as you spend most of your time here.
“The advice we normally give to clients is that most of your time means six months and one day every year.”
When Meghan applies for naturalisation she should not have spent more than 270 days out of the country in the last three years.
However there is speculation she and Harry could go abroad for six months a year which would mean she is away from the UK for 540 days over three years.
Mr Trott said any additional absences could be waived.
He attended a summit in Sandringham on Monday with the Queen, Prince Charles and Prince William to discuss his and Meghan’s future roles.
The Sussexes sparked a crisis last week with their bombshell statement announcing they were quitting as senior royals.
After the meeting, the Queen agreed for them to begin a transition period of living in Canada and the UK as they step back from royal life and become financially independent.
However, Meghan and Harry’s plan to live in Canada has been slammed by one of the country’s biggest newspapers.
An editorial in The Globe and Mail said: “Our royals don’t live here. They reign from a distance.
“A royal living in this country does not accord with the long-standing nature of the relationship between Canada and Britain, and Canada and the Crown.
“This country’s unique monarchy, and its delicate yet essential place in our constitutional system, means that a royal resident… is not something that Canada can allow.”
The editorial went on to urge the Canadian government to deny residence to Meghan and Harry.
It said: “The concept of the Crown is at the centre of the Canadian system of government.
“But though Canada borrowed from Britain, it isn’t Britain and never was. And this country long ago took steps to make that unmistakably clear.
“Canada is not a halfway house for anyone looking to get out of Britain while remaining a royal.
“In response to the sudden announcement of a vague and evolving plan for the Duke and Duchess of Sussex to move to Canada while remaining part of the royal family, the Trudeau government’s response should be simple and succinct: No.”