British Citizenship Guidelines
You can become a British citizen either by birth or by applying for Naturalisation if you are aged 18 or over. To be eligible to become a British national, you need to prove that you have been in the UK on Indefinite Leave to Remain or EU Settled Status for at least three years and that you have never broken UK law, including immigration breaches.
Once your permanent residence status request is approved, you can live, work and study in the UK permanently, without any immigration restrictions. You will also be able to travel and spend time abroad without the need to worry about losing your status.
To learn more about how to get settled status in the UK, you can get in touch with our team of professional immigration lawyers.
What are the British Citizenship requirements?
Those who wish to apply for Naturalisation must meet the following eligibility requirements:
- Be over the age of 18.
- Have spent at least 5 years of continuous residence in the UK, with no longer than 450 days of absence.
- Have held Indefinite Leave to Remain (ILR) in the UK for at least 12 months
- Meet the B1 CEFR level English language requirements (unless exempt).
- Pass the Life in the UK Test, to show that you are aware of the basics of the British customs, traditions and culture.
- Not have been in breach of any UK immigration rules.
The “Good Character” requirement
To qualify for citizenship, you must demonstrate your “good character”. This means that you must not hold any severe nor recent criminal record. The Home Office will also review any criminal offence committed overseas and immigration-related issue. On the other hand, the UKVI will take into accounts any contributions that you may have made to society.
How can I become a British citizen by Naturalisation?
Naturalisation is the process by which you can apply for British Citizenship if you were not born in the UK. To be eligible, you must be 18 years old or over and satisfy certain conditions. You must not have any serious or recent criminal record nor have broken any immigration laws during your time in the UK. Most importantly, you must have lived in the UK as a settled person (holding Indefinite Leave to Remain) for at least twelve months.
If you are married to a UK national, you can submit your forms after three years of continuous residence as a settled person.
Before you apply, you must also ensure that you meet additional requirements. Your total number of absences from the UK must not exceed a specific time frame, especially during the last year of your qualifying period, when you cannot spend more than 90 days abroad. It is also essential to satisfy the English language requirements unless you are exempt.
To apply for British nationality, you can complete the relevant Home Office form. This process usually takes from three to six months. If your application is approved, you will receive an invitation to attend a Citizenship ceremony to obtain your Certificate of Naturalisation. At that point, you will be free to apply for a British passport.
What are the immigration routes for British Citizenship registration?
According to your circumstances, there are several routes you can follow to register as a British citizen.
- British Citizenship by Birth or by Descent. You may automatically be recognized as a British national if you were born in the UK after 1st January 1983. However, you may also be eligible if you were born abroad from at least one parent who is a British citizen or settled person.
- British Citizenship by Marriage. To apply for British nationality as the spouse or civil partner of a UK citizen, you must first have spent at least 3 years in the UK as a settled person (either holding Indefinite Leave to Remain or EU Settled Status).
- 5-year route. After 5 months of residence in the UK, you can apply for Indefinite Leave to Remain or “permanent residence” status. After another 12-month period as a settled person, you are allowed to submit your application for British nationality. The same applies to EU and EEA citizens on the EU Settled Scheme.
- Citizenship for “stateless” individuals. If you are “stateless” and are thus not recognized as the citizen of any country, you may be eligible for British nationality. Both your eligibility and the application process you need to follow depends on the country where you were born.
- Nationality for those who renounced it. If you gave up your British Citizenship, you may eventually be allowed to resume your status.
What documents do I need to register for British Citizenship?
When submitting your request, it is essential to prepare an adequate portfolio of documents. This will help the Home Office evaluate your case and speed up your processing time.
The following are the documents that you must send to the Home Office:
- Evidence of your identity and permanent residence status, such as your passport, birth certificate or any valid travel document.
- Your Biometric Residence Permit (BRP), residence card, or any proof that you hold Indefinite Leave to Remain or EU Settled Status..
- Evidence of your previous immigration status, including any visa that you held before you settled in the UK.
- Proof of English language and knowledge of life in the UK. You will receive a valid pass certificate after completing both the Life in the UK Test and the ESOL language exam. If you have already completed the Life in the UK Test when you obtained Indefinite Leave to Remain, you do not need to resit the exam.
- Evidence of lawful residential presence in the UK during the qualifying period.
- Travel details of any period of absence that you have spent outside the UK.
- Proof showing that you are free from immigration time restrictions.
- Proof that you have exercised treaty right in the last 3 or 5 years, depending on your situation. To this end, you can provide letters confirming your current employment, bank statements or letters from your education establishment.
What are the differences between British Citizenship and ILR?
Both ILR (including permanent residence and EU Settled status) and British nationality give you the right to live, work and study in the UK free from immigration controls. However, these are two distinct status.
Indefinite Leave to Remain (ILR)
You can apply for ILR after five years of continuous residence in the UK. Once you get this status, you will be officially a British settled person, and you will be able to live permanently in the UK, access public funds, be joined by your family and leave and re-enter the country without the need to apply for a visa.
Holding ILR is a mandatory step before you can naturalise in the UK as a citizen. However, it is essential to note that you can lose your ILR status if you live outside the UK for more than two years.
British nationality will grant you full rights and responsibilities, including the ability to vote in parliamentary and local elections and to obtain a British passport. Most importantly, you will be able to leave the UK for unlimited periods of time without worrying about losing your status.
I was granted Indefinite Leave to Remain. When can I apply for British Citizenship?
As a general rule, you can become a British national once you have held Indefinite Leave to Remain in the UK for at least 12 months. The same requirement applies to those who hold Indefinite Leave to Enter the UK, and to EU and EEA citizens who have had EU settled status for a specific amount of time.
On the other hand, if you are married to a British citizen, you can apply for Naturalisation immediately after you get Indefinite Leave to Remain in the UK.
During the 12-month qualifying period, you cannot spend more than 90 days away from the UK. You may be asked to provide details about any absence that you had made before submitted your request.
If you hold Indefinite Leave to Remain, but you are away from the UK for more than two years, you will lose your status, and you will not qualify to British nationality until you have spent further eligible time in the UK.
If you are an EU citizen holding settled status, you will lose your right to settle in the UK after spending more than five years abroad.
If you wish to reobtain your status, you must submit a new application.
British Citizenship Application Advice
Applying for British nationality may be stressful and time-consuming. At IAS, we are committed to professionally assisting all our clients. Your case will be processed by an experienced lawyer, who will assess your situation and advise you on how to proceed. Hire one of our specialists to ensure that each part of your forms is completed by our experts.
Call us on 0333 363 8577 or make an enquiry online to find out if you qualify to become a British national.
British Citizenship Application Assistance
At IAS, our immigration lawyers can help you through each step of your British nationality case. After assessing your eligibility, your dedicated lawyer will complete your application form to the best standard. This includes performing a full document check to ensure that your portfolio of evidence is adequate. We can also prepare a Letter of Representation to support your case.
Call us on 0333 363 8577 or make an enquiry online to begin your journey towards becoming a British Citizen.
How do I apply for British Citizenship?
To send your request, you need to complete the application form provided by the UKVI, and submit it along with your supporting documentation.
Your biometric details (photograph and fingerprint scans) need to be collected at your nearest UKVCAS centre.
The Home Office may contact you to let you know if you can provide your information at a local post office.
You can submit your forms and documents either from abroad or from within the UK.
What is the British Citizenship application form?
To submit your request, you must complete and file a Form AN, Application for Naturalisation as a British citizen. Each section of the form requires you to provide detailed information about your case to prove your eligibility. This includes your biographical data, proof of residency, details of your employment status and any dependant applying with you.
If you are registering as the spouse of a British national, you must also produce evidence of your relationship.
Do not forget to include details of your two referees, who will need to sign your form to confirm that the information you provided on your form is correct.
Who can be a referee for my British Citizenship application?
Your application needs to be certified by two referees of your choice. Their role is to confirm that the information you have provided on your form is correct. Without your referees’ signatures, your request cannot be valid, and it will be rejected.
Your referees must both have known you for at least three years, and they cannot be related to you or each other. In addition, they must not have had any criminal convictions within the last ten years prior to your application.
One of your referees must be a person of professional standing, such as a doctor, a minister of religion, or a member of a professional body. However, he or she cannot be employed by the UKVI nor be a solicitor or agent representing you on this case. It is not essential for this person to be a British citizen. Nevertheless, your other referee must be a UK national and hold a British passport. This person must either be at least 25 years old or an accredited professional.
How long does the British Citizenship application process take?
The Home Office will start processing your case only once you have paid your appropriate fee.
As a general rule, British nationality applications are decided by the UKVI within six months.
Although it is not possible to apply for the Premium Same Day Service to speed up this type of applications, you may receive your answer from the Home Office earlier than the expected waiting time. While complex cases are likely to take more than the average six-month period if you provide comprehensive and adequate documentation about your circumstances the Home Office will be able to review your case quicker. If you fail to submit all the required documents and evidence, your request will most likely be delayed.
Once your application is approved, you will need to wait until you are summoned for your Citizenship Ceremony to receive your Naturalisation certificate and to apply for a British passport.
What is the Life in the UK Test?
The Life in the UK Test, also known as the British Citizenship Test, comprises of 24 questions about British culture, histories and customs. All the questions are based mainly on the information included in the Life in the UK Handbook provided by the Home Office. The minimum mark required to pass this test is 75%, and the exam is mandatory for those who wish to settle in the UK.
If you have already obtained a pass certificate as a part of your Indefinite Leave to Remain eligibility requirements, you will be exempt from this British nationality requirements. The same applies to those who are aged between 18 and 65 or who suffer from a long-term illness or disability.
You can book your Life in the UK Test online. This must be done at least three days in advance, and you can only choose one of the five centres closest to where you live.
On the day of your exam, you must bring with you the same ID that you used to book the test, as well as any proof of your address. If you fail to provide the correct documentation, you will not be able to sit the test, and you will not get a refund.
If you pass the test, you will receive a notification letter that you have to send to the UKVI together with your permanent residence form. Otherwise, if you fail the test, you will be able to retake it as many times as you need to.
Do I need to pass an accredited English Test?
Before you can settle in the UK on Indefinite Leave to Remain or as a citizen, you need to prove your knowledge of the English language.
To be eligible, you must have a recognised English test qualification at least at B1 level from an approved test centre. The only credentials accepted by the UKVI are the ones certified by ESOL (English for Speakers of Other Languages). In other words, different qualifications such as GCSEs and NVQs (National Vocational Qualifications) are not valid to meet this requirement.
It must be highlighted that some test qualifications only last for 2 years. The Home Office will admit an expired certificate only if it was accepted for another UK immigration application or when you settled on ILR, permanent residence status or under EU Settled Status.
English Language requirement exemptions
You do not need to sit an English test if you:
- Are aged 65 or over
- Suffer from a long-term physical or mental condition
- Have a degree that was taught or researched in English
If you studied abroad, you would need to provide an Academic Qualification Level Statement (AQUALS) to certify that your degree is equivalent to a UK qualification and that it was taught in English.
What is the British Citizenship Ceremony?
Under the Nationality, Immigration and Asylum Act 2002, all applicants over the age of 18 who are accepted as naturalised citizens in the UK are required to take part in a Citizenship ceremony. The aim is to make each new citizen fully welcomed into the British community.
Ceremonies must be booked within 3 months of the date you received an invitation from the Home Office. Although you can bring one guest to your service, these functions are not open to the public and are usually attended by the Mayor or Deputy Mayor of your council.
When attending your ceremony, you must bring with you both your Home Office letter of invitation and written confirmation from the Register Office. You will be asked to take an Oath of Allegiance and pledge of loyalty to the United Kingdom. After this rite, you will receive your British nationality certificate and an information pack to learn more about your new rights and responsibilities as a UK national.
If you live outside the UK, you can ask the embassy or consulate in your country to have your ceremony there. Otherwise, if you plan to return to the UK within 3 months of getting your invitation, you may postpone your function.
How can I acquire British Citizenship by Marriage?
If you are married to a UK national, you can apply for British Citizenship after three years of lawful and continuous residence in the UK as a settled person.
Before you submit your Form AN, Application for Naturalisation as a British Citizen, you must ensure you meet the following requirements:
- Being married to a British citizen. If your spouse is a UK settled person but does not hold a British passport, you must follow another immigration route to get your permanent residence status.
- Have held ILR, have an EEA permanent residence card or EU Settled Status for at least three years prior to your application.
- Be at least 18 years old.
- Qualify as a good character, and do not hold any serious criminal record either abroad or in the UK.
- Demonstrate your knowledge of written and spoken English. You must either sit an ESOL exam or show proof that you are a national of an English-speaking country.
- Pass the Life in the UK Test. This requirement is mandatory for all applicants.
You will be asked to provide proof of at least three years of residence in the UK.
What are the requirements for British Citizenship by birth?
Not every child born in the UK automatically receive British Citizenship by birth. In fact, to be eligible, at least one of the parents must hold British nationality or settled status.
Children born in the UK to non-British parents will automatically be recognized as dependants, and thus subject to the same visa rules as their parents. If this is your case, you may be able to register for British nationality at a later time.
What are the mandatory British Citizenship by descent requirements?
British Citizenship by descent is acquired by those who were born outside the UK from one or both parents who are British nationals. In other words, British nationality cannot be automatically passed on any child who is born abroad.
If you were born after 1st January 1983, you may be able to register for UK nationality by descent if you have a British born grandfather who was in Crown service, or if one of your parents was born in a former British colony.
Can a refugee acquire for British Citizenship?
According to the 2009 Borders, Citizenship and Immigration Act, the path to nationality and permanent residence in the UK for refugees comprises three different stages:
- Temporary residence status (5 years), obtained as a result of their asylum status.
- Probationary Citizenship (1 to 3 years), which can be gained by passing an Active Review. This means that applicants must have continued need for protection, pass the Life in the UK Test and hold no criminal record.
- Full Citizenship or Permanent Residence status.
How can I track my British Citizenship application status?
On average, British nationality applications are processed within three to six months. However, this timeframe may vary depending on the complexity of your case and the volume of requests that the Home Office has to handle.
Since you do not need to send your original passport along with your Naturalisation form, you can travel abroad freely while your case is processed.
You cannot track your application status online. Nevertheless, you can get in touch with the UKVI either by email or over the phone to enquire about the status of your request at any time.
Can you renounce British Citizenship or nationality?
You can apply to give up and renounce your British citizenship or status. For instance, you might wish to do this to become a citizen of another country that does not allow dual nationality. On the other hand, it must be noted that, if you wish to register as a national of a country that allows dual citizenship, you do not need to renounce status in the UK.
Once your request is accepted, you will receive a “declaration of renunciation”. This can be used to demonstrate that you are no longer British. However, this will only affect you. Any other member of your family will retain his or her status as a UK national.
To renounce your status as a British national, you must be at least 18 years old. Besides, you need to meet the “sound mind” requirement, meaning that you must legally be considered able to make your own decisions.
Resumption of British Citizenship
If you have given up your status, but you changed your mind, you can apply for resumption. However, as the British Nationality Act 1981 states, this may be possible only if “renunciation was necessary to enable the applicant to retain or acquire some other nationality”. When applying to resume your status, you must prove that you still have strong and reasonable connections with the UK. Although you may have been a British national in the past, the Home Office will need to review your good character before allowing you to reclaim your status.
Is Dual Citizenship allowed in the UK?
Since there is no requirement to renounce previous nationalities, dual citizenship is always allowed in the UK. Holding dual nationality means that you can be British national and also a citizen of another country of your choice. In addition, UK law also allows multiple citizenships. Therefore, you can apply for UK Naturalisation even if you already hold more than one more nationality.
You do not need to register for dual citizenship. If you are already a British national, you can apply for foreign citizenship in any country that allows dual nationality.
On the other hand, each county has its own rules relating to dual nationality. For this reason, it is essential to check with your country’s consulate or embassy if you can maintain your status in the UK.
When you send your request, you should take several factors to take into account. For example, as a dual national, you cannot get diplomatic help from the British government when you are in any other country where you hold your other permanent residence.
If you are a British citizen and you want to attain citizenship of a country which does not allow dual nationality, you will need to give up your status. In other circumstances, becoming a British citizen may automatically result in a loss of any previous nationality. Before you submit your request, it is advisable to also check if you need to notify your country of original citizenship of your intention to naturalise in the UK.
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Naturalisation is the process of becoming a citizen of another country. For people coming to the UK, naturalisation is a process that will allow them to live and work in the UK free from immigration controls. Unless you are British by descent, you will have to apply for British Naturalisation to become a British citizen. There are various requirements you must meet to be eligible to apply for Naturalisation. You must:
- be aged 18 or over;
- be of sound mind and good character;
- intend to continue living in the UK;
- have sufficient knowledge of life in the UK;
- be able to acceptably communicate in English, Welsh or Scottish Gaelic; and
- meet the residential qualifying period of five years (three for spouses/civil partners of a British Citizen).
If you are a national of a country in the European Economic Area (EEA) or Switzerland, or you are the family member of such a person, and you have exercised EEA free-movement rights in the UK for a continuous five year period you will automatically have Permanent Residence status. However, you must hold this status for 12 months before applying for Naturalisation.
Read our guide on completing the application form for British Citizenship.
You can apply for British nationality if you have held settled status for three years or more. This is most commonly in the form of Indefinite Leave to Remain. If you are applying for British Citizenship as a spouse, you will only need to show three years’ continuous residence at the time of your request. However, you will still need to have held ILR for at least a year.
You can apply for Indefinite Leave to Remain or EU Settled Status after five years of continuous residence on the same visa type. If you have switched visas during your stay in the UK, your application for Indefinite Leave to Remain will have different requirements.
If you are applying for British Citizenship as a spouse, you will only need to show three years’ continuous residence at the time you apply for permanent residence. However, you will still need to have held ILR or EU settled status for at least a year.
There are many requirements you will need to meet in order to apply for British Citizenship. Most importantly, you must hold settled status in the UK.
Here are a few things you should consider before starting your Naturalisation application for British Citizenship:
Immigration Time Restrictions – when applying for British Citizenship you must be free from immigration time restrictions on the day you make your request which often means having gained settled status before you apply.
Good Character Requirement – any applicant aged ten or over must be of good character to qualify for British Citizenship. Essentially this means that you must show respect for the rights and freedom of the UK, have observed its laws and fulfilled your duties and obligations as a resident. The Home Office will carry out criminal and financial checks.
Sound Mind Requirement– applicants must satisfy the full capacity requirement when applying for British Citizenship (although in some cases this may be overlooked). This means that you are able to make your own decisions and understand the step you are taking when you apply for British Citizenship.
Dual Nationality – you do not need to renounce your existing citizenship as many countries will let you have Dual Nationality when you apply for British Citizenship. If you are a national of a country who does not allow this, your country of origin may regard you as having lost your existing nationality or refuse to recognise your new nationality. If you are currently a British Citizen you will not normally lose this status if you become the citizen of another country unless the new country requires you to give up your British nationality.
For more on the requirements for British Citizenship
Your British Citizenship fee must be paid in full to make your application valid. You will not get a refund if your request is refused or withdrawn. However, if you fail to provide your biometric data, your form will be rejected as invalid, and your fee will be refunded less an administrative charge of £25.
The increased British Citizenship application fees for 2018/19 are:
- Adult registration as a British citizen fee: [Old fee] £1,163 [New fee] £1,206
- Child registration as a British citizen fee: [Old fee] £973 [New fee] £1,012
- Naturalisation fee: [Old fee] £1,282 [New fee] £1,330
All types of application have significantly increased since 2017/18. The increase is £43 for adult registration applications, £39 for child registration applications and £48 for naturalisation applications.
These fees do not include an additional charge of £80 for your citizenship ceremony. This fee will be refunded if your naturalisation request is refused or withdrawn.
If you submit your form online, you will be asked to pay by credit or debit card. Differently, if you use the paper form, you must use the payment slip to pay either by card or cheque.
When naturalising as a British citizen, you will also need to pay to attend your British Citizenship ceremony. You will pledge to respect the rights, freedom and laws of the UK along with many other new citizens.
You must attend this ceremony before you can be recognised as a British national.
You may instead be able to register as a British Citizen although there are various complicated categories here including if you are a British Overseas or Overseas Territory Citizen, you have previously given up your citizenship, you are a person who is stateless or a child under 18. This includes children in the country on a dependent child visa or children born in the UK to non-British parents.
In certain cases, you may also be able to claim British citizenship through grandparents. Cases of this nature are complex and judged individually.
British parents of children born outside of the UK will need to apply for British citizenship for child born abroad as their child will not be recognised as a British citizen at birth.
Each category has different requirements that must be met.
Although only applicants who are aged at least 18 can apply for British Naturalisation, you can register your children for citizenship in the UK. In fact, your family can be included in your application, provided that they already hold Indefinite Leave to Remain.
If your children are aged 13 or older, they qualify for Naturalisation only if they have been living in the UK for at least two years prior to their application.
Children who were born in the UK before you obtained ILR or EU Settled Status, may acquire an entitlement to be registered for citizenship as soon as you obtain your settlement status. On the other hand, any child born in the UK from non-British parents who are already settled in the country automatically acquires citizenship at birth.
Once you have obtained British Citizenship you will be free from UK immigration control and you will be able to apply for a British passport.
This is the most acceptable evidence of British Citizenship although, alternatively, you may be able to apply for a Nationality Status Document if you do not have the right documentation to apply for a passport.
British Nationality Law and applications for British Citizenship can be extremely complex and using the services of an immigration expert is highly recommended. Click here to find out more about how to apply for a British passport.
Usually, as an EEA national you will be eligible to become a British Citizen once you have been living in the UK for a period of five years or more from the date of your request.
You can apply for Permanent Residence (PR) or settled status in the UK if you have been in the UK for a period of five years without having been outside of the UK for more than 90 days within any 12 month period. You will then be able to apply to become a British Citizen 12 months after you have been granted Permanent Residency, provided you meet the eligibility requirements, which include the English language requirement, as well as not having been outside the UK for more than 450 days during your five-year stay.
With Brexit approaching, the UK government is planning to change the way European citizens register in the UK. To secure your status after the UK leaves the EU, citizens will need to register using the Settlement Scheme.
Settled Status will be granted to those who have been in the UK for at least five years. Once you have held this for one year you will be eligible to apply for British Citizenship.
Previous offences and convictions are likely to affect your eligibility for citizenship, although this does depend upon the type of conviction or offence.
For more information, it is best to speak with a knowledgeable immigration expert. Our teams of lawyers will be able to advise as to when a conviction will become spent and when it is possible to apply for citizenship. We will also be able to advise you on if your conviction will affect you when applying for permanent residence, settled status and British nationality.
IAS advise and assist many people with their British Citizenship case.
To naturalise in the UK, you must hold ILR, permanent residence or EU Settled Status. At IAS, we can help you with your case.
One of our qualified lawyers will assist you by:
- checking your supporting documents to ensure that they are enough to support your case;
- assessing your eligibility for British Citizenship, permanent residence and settled status;
- liaising with the Home Office until your citizenship or permanent residence status;
- preparing a Letter of Representation to be submitted alongside your forms;
- completing each part of your application form to a high standard;
- ensuring you are prepared for the ‘Life in the UK’ test; and
- ensuring you are properly prepared to pass your English language test.
Call 0333 363 8577 or make an enquiry to get expert advice.