- How to become a British Citizen
- English Language Requirements
- Life in the UK Test
- Residency Requirements
- Good Character Requirement
- Freedom from Immigration Restrictions Requirement
- Requirements for British Citizenship Registration
- Requirements to Register a Child
- Requirements for British Naturalisation
- Frequently asked questions
- How can I get help from the IAS
What are the British citizenship requirements?
The last step of your UK immigration journey is acquiring British citizenship. Once you become a UK national, you will receive full rights and duties as all other British citizens. Most importantly, you will be able to apply for a British passport.
To become a UK national, you must have spent a certain period of time in the UK. The specific time requirement is based on your current immigration status. You must also meet certain KoLL requirements which includes proving your knowledge of the English language, and achieving a pass in the Life in the UK test.
To receive professional guidance in your British citizenship application and to check if you qualify for it, get in touch with our team of OISC-accredited immigration lawyers.
How to become a British citizen?
UK nationality can be acquired in the following ways:
- By naturalisation, for adult applicants who were not born in the UK
- By registration, a route available only for specific applicants who hold different forms of British nationality, or have connections to the UK
- By birth in the UK (Iex soli), when at least one parent is a British national or a settled person at the time of the applicant’s birth
- By birth abroad (Iex sanguinis), if a child was born outside the UK to British parents, they will not be automatically classed as a British citizen. The child’s parents must complete the MN1 application form before the child is 18 in order for the child to become a British citizen
- By adoption, if the adoption order is made before the child is 18 and by a court in the UK
What are the English language requirements for UK citizenship?
To become a UK national, you need to prove your knowledge of English, Welsh or Scottish Gaelic through passing a listening and speaking test at B1 level.
Only English test qualifications from approved test centres will be recognised and accepted by the UKVI. To sit your exam, you can only use the ESOL (English for Speakers of Other Languages) qualifications or the one held by the London Trinity Knowledge.
You can also prove your English fluency by presenting evidence of a degree taught or researched in English. Bear in mind that nationals of specific countries are exempt from this requirement.
What is the Life in the UK Test?
If you pass the Life in the UK Test, you will have demonstrated your commitment to British customs. This is a computer-based exam consisting of 24 questions covering several topics. This includes British history, traditions, values and everyday life.
Sitting the test costs £50, and you can do it as many times as you need in order to pass the test.
If you have already passed this test as a part of your ILR application, or if you are under 18 or over 65, you will be exempt from this requirement.
You can prepare for the test by studying the official handbook provided by the Home Office, or through downloading the official app on your mobile device.
British citizenship residency requirements
Regardless of your immigration route, you must have been lawfully present in the UK for at least five years before you can become a British national. Foreign spouses of citizens may be able to apply after three years of lawful residence in the country.
Most importantly, since your first day in the UK, you must not have spent more than 450 days abroad in 5 years (or 270 days, if you are following the UK citizenship by marriage route). Also, you must not have been absent from the country for more than 90 days in your last 12-month eligible period.
If you need to spend some time abroad, your case may be evaluated based on specific compelling grounds. Since the Home Office has access to different immigration records to investigate the amount of time you have spent in the UK, it is recommended to keep hold of any evidence or documents which show the reasons for each of your absences.
What is the “good character” requirement for UK naturalisation?
All applicants who wish to become British citizen must prove that they are of good character. In other words, they must demonstrate that they have always shown respect for the UK by observing its laws and fulfilling their obligations as residents.
To review your eligibility, the Home Office will scrutiny different areas of your background, including your immigration history, financial “soundness” and criminality. Following the UKVI’s guidance, applicants who hold a custodial sentence of more than four years will not be considered as good characters, and their application will thus be rejected.
Failure to disclose your full criminal history and relevant records with UK authorities will translate into your naturalisation or registration being refused.
Do convictions abroad affect your good character?
According to the UKVI’s guidelines, convictions abroad will be considered only if in line with an equivalent sentence in the UK.
In other words, if your conviction is for an offence that is not recognised by UK law because there is no comparable offence, your case may fall under the exceptional grant. As a consequence, your application will not be refused unless you have other convictions that can jeopardise your good character.
Failure to disclose any conviction abroad will result in your application being rejected, unless you can demonstrate that you did not know about it. If you are concerned about any issue that may negatively impact on your eligibility to become a British citizen, our immigration lawyers are happy to help.
British Citizenship Requirements Advice
Submitting your British Citizenship application to the Home Office can be costly and time-consuming. For this reason, you must first ensure that you meet all the mandatory conditions and that you hold adequate documentation to prove your eligibility. Get in touch with IAS’ immigration lawyers to have an expert reviewing your case.
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
With decades of experience in the UK’s immigration system, our lawyers are well equipped to help you with your British Citizenship application. We understand that this is a serious commitment and will guide you through every step of the process. As a part of our service, we can also complete and submit your forms on your behalf.
Call us on 0333 363 8577 or make an enquiry online to receive professional guidance from one of our lawyers.
Freedom from immigration restrictions requirement
One of the mandatory requirements for British citizenship is to be free from immigration restrictions or time limits.
To meet this condition, you must already hold settled status in the UK in the last 12-month period before you submit your application. Depending on your nationality this can either be Indefinite Leave to Remain, a UK permanent residence card or EU settled status.
Along with your supporting documentation, the Home Office will require evidence of your current immigration status, as well as any UK visas that you have ever held.
Requirements for British citizenship registration
Since the British registration route is reserved to applicants who already have strong ties with the UK, the KoLL (Knowledge of English and Life in the UK) requirements do not apply.
UK citizenship by registration is usually open for British overseas citizens, protected people or subjects (such as children born from qualified UK nationals). Applicants are required to provide:
- Evidence of their close ties to the UK and their entitlement for registration
- Proof of at least five years of lawful residence in the country with no more than 450 days of absence
- Complete declaration of their criminal record, to show their good character
Requirements to register a child as a British citizen
Children born in the UK do not always automatically acquire citizenship status. For instance, children born in the UK to non-British nationals need to wait until one of the parents get UK citizenship or ILR before they can be registered.
Whether your children are acquiring British citizenship at birth or you are going to apply for this status before they turn 18, they must meet the following eligibility criteria:
- At least one of the parents must be a UK national or settled person (for children born in the UK), or must have acquired citizenship other than descent (for children born abroad)
- For children born before 2006, if only the father holds UK citizenship or ILR, the parents must be married
- Children must be of good character (if they are over the age of 10)
- In the case of a child adopted by a UK citizen, nationality acquisition is possible only if the adoption order is made by a court in the UK or another British Overseas Territory
Requirements for British naturalisation
As stated by the British Nationality Act 1981, the following are the mandatory requirements for UK naturalisation:
- Be aged 18 or over
- Be of sound mind, that is of full mental capacity
- Lived in the UK for at least five years (or three, if married to a British citizen or settled person)
- Held Indefinite Leave to Remain (ILR) for at least 12 months before the naturalisation application
- Not spent more than 450 days outside the UK during the five years of lawful residence, and 90 days in the last 12-month period
- Be of good character, and not have breached any UK immigration rule
- Meet the KoLL requirements through being able to communicate adequately in English and through sufficient knowledge of life in the UK
- Have serious intentions of living permanently in the UK (or work overseas for the UK government or a British corporation)
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To meet the British Citizenship requirements, you usually need to have been born to a mother or father with British Citizenship or settled status.
For this route, you must have:
- been born to a British mother, before January 1st, 1983;
- have been born to a British father;
- a connection with Gibralter (e.g if you are a British overseas territories citizen);
- a connection with Hong Kong (you have been ordinarily resident since February 3rd, 1997); or
- a British grandparent (in certain circumstances).
If you were born in the UK, and one or more of your parents has British Citizenship or Settled Status, you are automatically a British citizen.
This means that you do not have to register as a British citizen.
- Per adult: £1,206 application fee
- Per child: £1,012 application fee
- Adult from Gibraltar or Hong Kong: £1,163 application fee
- Child from Gibraltar or Hong Kong: £973
For all registration applications, you need to pay an extra fee of £19.20 for your biometric residence card.
The process of naturalising as a British citizen is generally more complex than the registration process. There are various factors involved when trying to meet the British citizenship requirements.
You can apply to naturalise as a British citizen if:
- you are at least 18 years old;
- you are of ‘good character’ (this means you have no serious/recent criminal record and no immigration offences from the last 10 years);
- you plan to continue living in the UK once you are a citizen;
- you have passed the Life in the UK test;
- you have passed your English language requirements (if applicable);
- you meet the residency requirements; and
- you were in the UK at least 5 years before the day you made the application.
The residency requirements for naturalisation vary depending on your circumstances.
If you are applying via a Spouse Visa, the British Citizenship requirements usually include:
- living in the UK for a continuous period, for a minimum of three years;
- spending a maximum of 270 days outside the UK during this time;
- spending a maximum of 90 days outside the UK in the last year; and
- not breaking any immigration laws during your time on your Spouse Visa
If you are applying from any other immigration route or visa category, you must have:
- lived in the UK for a continuous period, for a minimum of five years;
- spent a maximum of 450 days outside the UK during this time;
- spent a maximum of 90 days outside the UK in the last year;
- had Indefinite Leave to Remain for the past year (if you are a non-EEA national);
- had Permanent Residence for the past year (if you are an EEA national); and
- not committed any crimes or broken any immigration laws during your time in the UK.
- Per adult: £1330
- Per child: £1012
Read our Form AN guide for more information on naturalisation.
If you are applying for British Citizenship as a spouse, you will need the following documents:
- a certificate showing a pass in the Life in the UK test;
- evidence of competence in English (qualification or British degree certificate);
- passport or travel documents which cover the last three years (if your passport does not cover the past three years) you need to show sufficient evidence of living in the UK, such as study records, P60’s, wage slips, benefit letters;
- marriage or civil partnership certificate; and
- completed application form (AN).
If you are applying to become a British citizen through a different route, you will need the same documents. However, you will need to prove you have spent the last five years as a resident in the UK rather than three.
To meet the British Citizenship requirements, you need to show you are competent in English. You can do this with either:
- a degree qualification which was taught or research in English; or
- an English test qualification of a minimum of ‘B1’.
Not every nationality of person needs to demonstrate that they meet English language requirements to become a citizen. For example, if your first language is English, you do not need to pass a test. The countries who are exempt from the tests are as followings:
- Antigua and Barbuda
- the Bahamas
- New Zealand
- St Kitts and Nevis
- St Lucia
- St Vincent and the Grenadines
- Trinidad and Tobago
- The USA
There are other circumstances in which you will not need to pass the English test in order to meet the British citizenship requirements. These are:
- If you are aged 65 or older when you submit your application;
- if you are not in the right physical or mental condition to sit the test; or
- exceptional compassionate circumstances.
The KoLL requirement refers to “Knowledge of Language and Life in the UK”. In other words, you must demonstrate your knowledge of the English language and British customs.
When applying for UK citizenship, you must provide two referees to certify your identity and the authenticity of your request.
Your referees must have known you for at least three years and be over 25. While one of these persons must be a UK citizen, the other referee can be of any nationality provided that he or she is a professional (i.e. police officer, accountant or lecturer).
Passing the Life in the UK test is a necessity for anyone who wants to meet the British Citizenship requirements.
During the test, you are asked 24 multiple-choice questions. These questions are about a range of topics, including British history, custom, tradition, geography, and culture.
You are given 45 minutes to answer these and you need a 75% pass-rate to succeed.
Based on your current circumstances, you will need to follow different routes to become a UK citizen. Consequently, there may be different eligibility criteria to meet and additional documentation required.
The following are the key British citizenship documents that you must attach to your form in any case:
- Proof that you have spent at least five years as a lawful resident in the UK
- Your passport or any valid travel document covering the last three years
- Criminal record to prove you are of good character
- Evidence of freedom from immigration time restrictions
- Evidence of your competence in English (unless exempt)
- The passing certificate of your Life in the UK Test
The British Citizenship application process usually takes around three months. However, this is the top estimate. Citizenship applications take significantly longer than many other visa applications because it is a far more complex procedure. When you become a British citizen, you are free from all immigration boundaries and gain full rights in the UK. As a result, UKVI are particularly cautious with which applications they choose to accept.
Once you have met the British Citizenship requirements and received your Certificate of Naturalisation or registered citizenship status at your citizenship ceremony, you can apply for a passport.
This process should usually take a maximum of six weeks, and the UKVI may invite you to a separate interview for this.
Applying for British Citizenship is one of the most important processes you will undertake. Our service will ensure you are in the best position to meet the British Citizenship requirements before you apply.
Our services include:
- Identifying the best route for your circumstances
- Ensuring that your documents are sufficient before your application is submitted
- Completing all application forms to a professional standard
- Submitting a Letter of Representation with your application, referring to the merits of your case and relevant case law
- Liaising with the Home Office until a decision is reached
For more information on whether you meet the British Citizenship requirements, contact us online or by calling 0333 363 8577 today.