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British citizenship 3-year routes explained

If you wish to become a British citizen, then the time taken to gain Indefinite Leave to Remain status can seem very lengthy. However, for those in the UK under certain visas the path to ILR status can take considerably less time and may be an option for those who wish to settle in the UK asap.

For more information about British citizenship and making an application reach out to one of our expert immigration advisers for more information. Call us on 0333 305 9375, or contact us online today.


British citizenship, ILR and qualifying residence periods

Gaining Indefinite Leave to Remain (ILR) is a crucial step towards becoming a British citizen and in the majority of cases is a compulsory step towards citizenship.

Under UK immigration laws, most visa holders in the UK must have lived in the UK for a continuous period of at least five years before they can apply for ILR/settled status. It is then a further year before they can apply for British citizenship.

In some cases, this could be further increased to around a ten year period of living in the UK before meeting settled status or UK citizenship requirements.

However, for certain qualifying visa holders there is the option for accelerated settlement and gaining ILR quicker and therefore British citizenship.

If you are hoping for permanent UK residence within a compressed timeframe then you may wish to seek expert advice from immigration lawyers on what visa route may help you achieve this.

Accelerated UK visa routes towards British citizenship

UK immigration rules allow for some UK visas to have a shorter qualifying period for indefinite leave to remain status and therefore could be a good option for anyone wishing to reduce the time it takes to eventually gain British citizenship.

You could speed up being granted indefinite leave and the overall time taken to become a British citizen, if you come to the UK on one of the following visas:

  • Family visa or spouse visa and your partner has either died or the relationship has ended due to domestic abuse
  • Innovator visa
  • Investor visa (this closed to new applicants in 2019)
  • Global talent visa

The innovator visa accelerated route to becoming a British citizen

Entrepreneurs who are looking to invest in a UK business can apply for an Innovator Visa. To be eligible, applicants must receive endorsement from a valid body and have at least £50,000 to invest in the business.

All Innovator visa applicants must be at least 18 years old and meet the English language requirement as well as personal financial requirements.

Multiple applicants can apply for endorsement to be co-directors of the same company, but each applicant still needs to be able to demonstrate that they each have £50,000 to invest in the business.

Crucially, an Innovator visa holder can apply for ILR after just three years of continuous residence in the UK rather than the more usual five years of permanent residence needed under immigration time restrictions. This means after a further year, they could be able to apply for British citizenship.

Spouse visa and accelerated route to British citizenship

The Spouse Visa, also referred to as a Marriage Visa, allows non-UK nationals to join their partner (this partner can be via marriage or a civil partnership) in the UK. Your spouse must already hold British citizenship or be a British national.

In most cases, the Spouse Visa route still has a five-year period for qualifying for ILR. However, this continuous residence requirement for spouse visa holders living in the UK does not apply following the death of a partner – so anyone whose wife/husband has passed away can apply for indefinite leave to remain before the standard qualifying period is completed.

The other circumstance in which the Home Office could exercise discretion over the five-year continuous residence requirement is if the spouse visa holder has been the victim of domestic violence and the relationship has ended because of this abuse.

British Citizenship via the Global Talent Visa route

The Global Talent Visa has replaced the Tier 1 (Exceptional Talent) visa and is specific route aimed at encouraging scientists, researchers and qualifying foreign citizens to live and work in the UK.

It is possible for the Global Talent Visa route to offer an accelerated permanent residence after three years. However if this is a key reason for applying for this visa, you should seek expert advice as it can depend on the specifics of your talent and the endorsing body of your application.

What does continuous residence in the UK mean?

When applying for ILR and British citizenship, one of the main qualifying criteria to gaining settled status and British nationality is that you must meet the continuous residence requirements set by the Home Office for permanent residence status.

In most cases. the maximum period of time you are allowed to spend outside of the UK is 180 days within a 12-month period. If you spend a larger amount of time overseas then this could impact on your current visa and make you ineligible for ILR or British citizenship.

You may still be able to able for ILR or British citizenship if you have spent a longer amount of time outside the UK but you will need to show why you had to spend the time overseas – for instance, caring for a sick relative etc could be regarded as exceptional circumstances.

What documents are needed to apply for British Citizenship?

When submitting your request to become a British citizen, it is essential to have supporting documents to demonstrate that you meet all the requirements. You should be aware that it can take around six months for your British citizenship application to be granted but you are allowed to remain in the UK during this time.

The following are the documents that you must send to the Home Office as part of your British citizenship application:

  • Evidence of your identity and permanent residence status, for example your passport, birth certificate or any valid travel document.
  • Your Biometric Residence Permit (BRP), residence card, or proof that you hold Indefinite Leave to Remain or EU Settled Status
  • Evidence of your previous immigration status and your right to remain in the UK, including any visa that you held before you come to the UK
  • Proof of English language and sufficient knowledge of the UK. You will receive a valid pass certificate after completing both the Life in the UK Test and the ESOL language exam.
  • Evidence of lawful residential presence in the UK during the qualifying period. As a resident of the UK, you must have not have broken any UK immigration laws or UK immigration control
  • Travel details of any period of absence that you have spent outside the UK. To become a British citizen, you need to show that you have not been absent from the UK for more than 450 days during the five year residence qualifying period.
  • Proof showing that you are free from UK immigration time restrictions and you have the right to remain in the UK.
  • You meet the good character requirement and you have not been in breach of any UK immigration controls or that you have any criminal convictions.

Contact us today if you require assistance with your British citizenship application.

How Can IAS Help?

A certificate of British Citizenship is an important document that proves your right to live and work in the UK indefinitely without being subject to any immigration restrictions.

IAS can help. We are expert legal advisers specialising in UK immigration law, with years’ worth of experience helping individuals with their immigration issues. We can help establish your eligibility for a certificate of entitlement, assist you throughout the application process, and even liaise with the Home Office to keep track of your application as it gets processed.

For more information about the services we offer and how we can help you, get in touch with us today on 0333 305 9375, or talk to us online today.

We’re here to help with your British Citizenship immigration issue.

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