Citizenship and migration in an independent Scotland
The Scottish Government’s policies for an independent Scotland at a glance
- anyone in the world who chooses an independent Scotland as their home would have an option to become a Scottish citizen
- different routes to Scottish citizenship would be available to different people, depending on whether you already live here, have close connections to Scotland or have come here to live, work or study
- Scottish citizens would be able to hold a Scottish passport and get overseas assistance from Scotland’s offices across the world
- independence would mean Scotland would have full control of its citizenship and immigration policies
- membership of the European Union (EU) would mean Scottish citizens would be EU citizens, benefiting from protected rights and consular assistance around the world through the embassies or consulates of other EU member states
What citizenship would mean for you
Citizenship is an essential part of being an independent country. Scottish citizenship would be a new, legal status of nationality, but it won’t replace any of the nationalities we already hold: we would still be able to choose to be Scottish and British, or any other nationality that we already hold. As a citizen, you will get rights, including the right to hold a Scottish passport. Scotland would continue to be an open and welcoming country - nobody would need to be a citizen to feel they belong in Scotland.
Under this government’s proposals, citizenship of an independent Scotland would mean people could travel freely, live and work across the UK and Ireland, and across the European Union once Scotland re-joins the EU.
Becoming a Scottish citizen
There would be different ways to become a Scottish citizen depending on your situation. These are set out below, with some examples. You can also find a quick guide to Scottish citizenship, which tells you the different ways you could become a citizen in an independent Scotland, in the Citizenship paper.
Automatic citizenship: you would be a Scottish citizen automatically if you are already a British citizen and live in Scotland, were born in Scotland, have a parent who was born in Scotland, or previously lived in Scotland for 10 years (or five years as a child). If you did not want to become a Scottish citizen automatically, you could opt-out.
- For example: Tony is a British citizen born in Manchester. He lives with his wife and children in Inverness. As a British citizen who habitually resides in Scotland, Tony automatically becomes a Scottish citizen on independence.
Children born after independence: a child born in Scotland after independence would automatically be a Scottish citizen if at least one of its parents was a Scottish, British or Irish citizen, or at least one of its parents was “settled” in Scotland under immigration law. A baby born outside of Scotland after independence could become a Scottish citizen if at least one of its parents is a Scottish citizen.
- For example: Anna is a Polish national who lives in Perth. She has settled status under the EU Settlement Scheme. Anna has a baby boy, Aleksander, after independence. As Aleksander was born in Scotland to a parent who is ‘settled’, he is a Scottish citizen.
Registering as a Scottish citizen: you would be able to register as a Scottish citizen if you are a British or Irish citizen who has moved to Scotland after independence and lived here for five years, or, if you are a child of another nationality being brought up in Scotland.
- For example: Femi is structural engineer from Nigeria. He moves to Aberdeen after independence with his Nigerian wife and two-year old daughter, Tiwa. After five years, Femi can register Tiwa as a Scottish citizen.
Applying to become a Scottish citizen: A person of another nationality could apply to be a Scottish citizen if they have been 'settled' in Scotland for at least 12 months and lived in Scotland for at least five years.
- For example: Geeta, an Indian national, moves to Dundee after independence. She works as a software developer with a gaming company. After five years on work visas, she applies for and is granted indefinite leave to remain. Geta can apply to become a Scottish citizen after holding her indefinite leave to remain for 12 months.
The rights of EU citizens are currently protected by the UK-EU Withdrawal Agreement. These rights would continue to be protected in the period after independence through new immigration rules.
Scottish citizens would be entitled to hold a Scottish passport after independence. You would not need to hold a Scottish passport if you do not want one and you would not get a Scottish passport automatically when you become a Scottish citizen, just as is the case for British citizens and British passports. You would apply for a Scottish passport in the same way you apply for a British one now.
Travelling, living and working in the rest of the UK
Scotland would be part of the Common Travel Area (CTA) – an agreement in place where citizens can travel freely between the UK, Ireland, the Channel Islands, and the Isle of Man – just as it is now as part of the UK. Being part of this agreement would mean Scottish, British and Irish citizens would continue to be able to have free movement to travel, live and work across the Common Travel Area, and there would be no need for passport control or immigration checks. The EU recognises the CTA, so once Scotland joins the EU, Scottish citizens would continue to have free movement across the CTA, just as Ireland does now.
Travelling, living and working in the European Union
It’s this government’s intention that Scotland would apply to re-join the European Union as soon as possible after independence. Once Scotland becomes an EU member, Scottish citizens would also become EU citizens, meaning you can move freely across the EU, as well as other European nations including Norway, Iceland, Liechtenstein and Switzerland.
The Scottish Government’s policies for migration in an independent Scotland at a glance:
- set up a welcoming immigration system that would benefit Scotland’s population growth, the economy, public services and communities
- introduce new visas which would allow people to live and work in Scotland more easily
- offer protection to those who need it most through humane and compassionate refugee and asylum policies
- an independent Scotland would apply to re-join the European Union (EU) which would allow EU citizens to live, work and study freely across EU member states, bringing diversity to our communities, more job choices and opportunities for cultural exchanges
Scotland’s immigration system
Independence would give Scotland control over migration policy. This would give an opportunity to introduce a new, welcoming immigration system and:
- help grow Scotland’s declining population and sustain our public services
- boost Scotland’s economy and support key sectors like tourism and agriculture
- attract international students, with opportunities for them to live and work here after studying
- support further contributions to our communities, helping to shape Scottish society and culture by actively being part of it
Three new, separate agencies would be set up in Scotland to handle immigration; asylum; and passport and citizenship.
Visas to live and work in Scotland
Under this government’s proposals, new visas would be introduced to support people to live and work here. These would include:
Live in Scotland visa
Would allow people to live and work here without employer sponsorship if they meet certain broad criteria. It would give credit for:
- skills and work experience
- earning potential
- language ability.
It would also incorporate a place-based element, which means it could support migration to rural and island communities.
Scottish Connections visa
Would give certain people immediate rights to live and work here if they:
- have had residence for at least five years
- have a family connection through a parent or grandparent
- have studied in Scotland for their degree
- are British Nationals who are in UK overseas territories
Work in Scotland visa
Would be a visa through employer sponsorship, with simplified rules to allow more employers to recruit from abroad. A seasonal worker visa would also be introduced, removing the need for workers to be tied to a single employer.
Would remove the current minimum income requirement that’s currently in place for a UK family visa, making it easier for families to choose Scotland as a place to live while also helping to reunite families who have been separated
The cost of visa fees would be set at a level that does not seek to make a profit.
This government would demonstrate our respect for human rights and social justice by offering protection to those who need it most.
A new asylum service would be set up separately to the immigration agency, and all asylum processing would take place in Scotland, with no offshoring to other countries. Independence would give an opportunity to:
- offer a place of safety to those seeking asylum, and use new powers to put in place systems that help people to integrate into communities from day one, for example giving those seeking asylum the right to work – something they don’t currently have under current UK Government rules
- only use detention when there is a clear need: the immigration removal centre at Dungavel would be closed and long-term or indefinite immigration detention would end
- ensure that once people are granted refugee status, the transition is as straightforward as possible
- continue to support refugees through a Scottish refugee resettlement programme.
- as a member of the EU, Scotland would particulate in the EU refugee resettlement initiatives.
The Scottish Passport and Citizen Services Office (SPCSO) would issue passports to Scottish citizens. You can read more about Scottish citizenship and passports in the citizenship section of these pages.
Read more in the migration paper.
More information will be added to these pages as the Building a New Scotland papers are published.
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