When Meghan Markle said yes to Prince Harry‘s proposal, she was agreeing to much more than marriage. Beyond just her new title and new royal duties, she’s also relocating to a new country, and with that, comes a new citizenship. The British royal family announced Tuesday that Markle intends to become a citizen of the United Kingdom after marrying Harry.
A spokesperson for the family says it’s “too early to say” if Markle will retain her American citizenship after she becomes a British citizen. While she’s going through the process to become a British citizen, she will remain an American citizen.
There isn’t much precedent when it comes to foreigners marrying into the British royal family. The last time an American married into the family, it caused a constitutional crisis: King Edward VIII was forced to abdicate the throne to marry his divorced American fiancée, Wallis Simpson.
Though clearly times have changed, and this American is being welcomed into the royal family with open arms, there’s still a few hurdles she’ll have to jump through — even if she gets a fast pass to British citizenship.
Normally, moving to the United Kingdom as an American is no easy task. If Markle was just an American engaged to an average Briton, she’d have to apply for a fiancée settlement visa. Her fiancé would need to sponsor his other half for the move, and the sponsor must make a salary of £18,600 at minimum — not an issue for Harry, of course! The couple also would have to prove that they’re in a genuine relationship, and aren’t just getting married for visa purposes. (Harry and Meghan’s engagement interview should be proof enough of that!) She’ll also need to prove she can financially support herself (again, shouldn’t be an issue!) and has a solid knowledge of English, which again, wouldn’t be a problem, as Markle grew up in the U.S.
Once that’s approved, a couple has six months to tie the knot — on British soil. Then, the foreigner in the situation would have to apply for a marriage visa. This lasts 60 months, then you get another one for 33 months. And finally, after this collective 93-month period, you can apply for Indefinite Leave to Remain. Once you get Indefinite Leave to Remain, you’ll have a year before you can apply for U.K. citizenship.
However, it’s hard to imagine that the fiancée of the fifth-in-line to the throne would have to go through the same bureaucratic process that the average person would.
For more on the couple, watchPrince Harry & Meghan Markle: The Royal Engagement available now, PeopleTV. Go to PeopleTV.com, or download the PeopleTV app on your favorite mobile or connected TV device.
But will Markle have to give up her American citizenship? As of now, it doesn’t seem so. Since she’s not marrying the heir to the throne, there’s less pressure all around. And she doesn’t come from royalty herself, as Prince Philip did (he had to renounce his title of Prince of Greece and Denmark before marrying Queen Elizabeth in 1947). Holding onto her American citizenship wouldn’t be quite as controversial as retaining a foreign title would have been.
The citizenship dilemma is one that several other European royals have already dealt with — and Harry and Markle might look to those who have dealt with this exact situation in recent years for inspiration.
Crown Princess Mary of Denmark, who was an Australian citizen, relocated to Denmark while she was dating Crown Prince Frederik, but it wasn’t until they announced their engagement that she had to deal with the question of changing her citizenship. The Danish parliament ended up passing a special law — fittingly called Mary’s Law — that granted her Danish citizenship after she married Frederik. She also renounced her Australian citizenship upon her marriage, making her solely a Dane.
For Queen Maxima of the Netherlands, who was born an Argentinian citizen, a similar procedure was followed: She was granted Dutch citizenship two months after her engagement to King Willem-Alexander was announced in March 2001. She did, however, retain her Argentine citizenship and remains a dual citizen of both countries.
Princess Madeleine of Sweden‘s husband, Christopher O’Neill, however, took a different approach. A dual citizen of the United States and the United Kingdom, he declined both Swedish citizenship and a royal title, preferring to remain a “commoner” so he could continue his career in finance. O’Neill, Madeleine and their two (soon to be three!) children reside full-time in London.
All three instances have one thing in common: The person marrying into the family is offered citizenship to their new country at the time of their wedding, or even before. It’s hard to imagine that the royal family won’t follow suit for Markle before she becomes a part of the fold.