- British Naturalisation Overview
- UK Naturalisation Eligibility
- Naturalisation Requirements
- English Language Requirement
- Life In The UK Test
- The “Good Character” Requirement
- UK Residency Requirement
- Applying For British Naturalisation
- Required Supporting Documents
- Naturalisation Refused
- How To Apply For British Naturalisation
- Frequently Asked Questions
- How can I get help from the IAS
What is British Naturalisation?
By its definition, naturalisation is a legal process through which someone changes their nationality. Successful applicants for British naturalisation are officially considered British citizens internationally, and carry all the same rights, both nationally and internationally, as anyone born in the UK.
For a long time, people living in the UK under foreign citizenship had not been able to apply to become a full British national through naturalisation. For example, before 1844, UK naturalisation could only be granted by an official and private act of parliament. Since 1844, the costs of naturalisation have come down, and it has been dealt with directly by the Home Office itself.
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What Exactly Is British Naturalisation?
At its most basic level, British naturalisation is the most commonly used route for people with foreign citizenship to apply to become a British citizen. If you are successful and become naturalised as a full British national, you’ll gain the same rights as anyone born here. You’ll be able to live and work in the UK freely, without being held subject to immigration control or immigration laws. For a lot of people coming to the UK with the intention of finally settling here as a British national, UK naturalisation is an important final step in their immigration route.
In order to be eligible to apply for British naturalisation, you’ll have to meet certain criteria. As well as this, you’ll need to also demonstrate certain characteristics that prove you are an appropriate candidate for becoming a British subject, which might include:
- Passing the Life in the UK test – an official government test set by the Home Office, in which you will have to prove an understanding of British culture, customs and tradition.
- Proving that you have spoken and written proficiency in a recognised British language – This may include having to take an IELTS Language test to prove your proficiency. It’s worth noting that this doesn’t necessarily have to be English – you are also eligible if you can speak, read and write Welsh or Scottish Gaelic.
- Demonstrating you have ‘good character’ – The clearest and obvious way to discern this is usually a criminal record. If you have a proven criminal record, you may be in danger of being perceived to not have ‘good character’ in your UK naturalisation application.
Do You Meet British Citizenship Eligibility?
Becoming naturalised as a full British national means that you no longer have to worry about making visa applications or abiding by the requirements and eligibility criteria of Indefinite Leave to Remain. As a non-EEA citizen hoping to come from a non-European country to settle in the UK, the likelihood is that you will have to apply for naturalisation on the basis of having spent 5 years in the UK lawfully or 12 months in a settled status unless you have a claim for British citizenship based on your ancestry. However, there are different eligibility requirements to be aware of.
The eligibility requirements to file a successful citizenship application in the UK are quite strict. This is because it is generally the last step in a foreign national’s journey to earning all the same rights as people born in the UK. Crucially, this also means that you will be able to apply for an official British passport and gain all the same international travelling rights as any UK citizen.
British nationality law and immigration control is strict in general, so we always recommend seeking professional advice when assessing your eligibility. The experienced and OISC-accredited immigration lawyers here at IAS can provide comprehensive immigration advice and assistance, helping to assess your eligibility and to also help put your application together too, strengthening your chances of success.
As an adult, non-EEA national applicant seeking to become a full British national, you must have spent the required amount of time in the UK before applying. The time requirement is entirely based on your current and previous immigration status – for most applicants, you must have been living in the UK lawfully for five years, although spouses of British nationals can complete the same process after three years of living in the UK.
What are the Requirements?
The full mandatory British naturalisation eligibility requirements, as stated in the British Nationality Act 1981, are that:
- You are aged 18 or over.
- You are of sound mind. You must have full mental capacity.
- You have lived in the UK for at least five years previously – this is why the naturalisation process is often known as the ‘five-year route’.
- You have not spent more than 450 days outside the UK during your five years of lawful residence in the country. This also includes having spent no more than 90 days outside the UK in the 12 months leading up to your application.
- You have lived in the UK for at least three years previously if you are married to a full British national, and have not spent more than 270 days outside the UK during your lawful residence in the UK.
- You have held the right of Indefinite Leave to Remain (ILR) for at least 1 year before beginning your naturalisation application process. It’s important that, at the time of applying, you are completely free from immigration restrictions in the UK, and you must be able to demonstrate that you have settled status in the UK for at least a year before submitting your citizenship application. This most often achieved through Indefinite Leave to Remain, but depending on your nationality, it can also be through a UK permanent residence card or EU settled person visa.
- You have not been in breach of any UK immigration rules previously.
- You are of ‘good character’.
- You have serious, honest and provable intentions of living permanently in the UK upon receiving British citizenship. You can also be eligible if you have the intention of living and working overseas for either the UK government or a British business.
- You meet the necessary English language requirements. Most often, this will mean showing evidence of meeting the B1 CEFR English requirement. However, some exemptions do exist. You can also be eligible if you have proficiency in either the Welsh or Scottish Gaelic languages.
You have passed the Life in the UK Test, proving that you have sufficient and appropriate knowledge of British culture, tradition and customs.
What Are The English Language Requirements For Naturalisation?
To be eligible to become naturalised with British citizenship as a non-EEA adult applicant, you need to be able to prove you have sufficient knowledge of a British language, whether that be English, Welsh, or Scottish Gaelic.
Only officially approved English test qualifications from approved test centres are recognised and accepted by the UKVI (UK visas and immigration). This means that you have to sit an IELTS test (International English Language Test System test) and achieve at least a B1 level certificate certified by ESOL (English for Speakers of Other Languages). You’ll have to prove your language proficiency by passing both listening and speaking tests.
This also means that most other English language qualifications, such as NVQs and GCSEs, are not valid. Some of the valid qualifications also only last for around 2 years before needing to be renewed. Expired certificates won’t be accepted by the Home Office unless it was previously accepted for another immigration application, such as for Indefinite Leave to Remain or a visitor visa.
Exemptions for the English Language Naturalisation Requirements
There are some situations in which it won’t be necessary for you to prove proficiency in a British language when applying for naturalisation. These include if you:
- Can prove your fluency in English or another British language through evidence of having completed a degree that was either taught or researched in English.
- Are aged either 65 or over.
- Suffer from a severe physical or mental condition that has affected you on a long-term basis.
If you have studied and gained a degree abroad and hope to use evidence of this for exemption from having to prove English language proficiency for your naturalization application, you may instead need to provide an Academic Qualification Level Statement (AQUALS) to certify to equivalency of your qualification to a UK degree and the fact that it was taught in English.
What Is The Life In The UK Test?
You’ll be given 24 randomly-selected questions that cover a range of different topics, including British history, everyday life, values, and traditions.
Sitting the Life in the UK Test costs £50 to sit. You can sit the test as many times as you need until you pass. You’ll have to pay the same fee each time you sit the test.
There is a Life in the UK Handbook that can be provided by the Home Office. This handbook has a lot of information on UK traditions, lifestyles, and values. Most of the questions in the test are based on information available in this handbook. It can also be downloaded as an official app for use via your mobile phone.
The minimum pass mark for the test is 75% and passing the test by this mark is mandatory for any adult non-EEA applicant for British naturalisation. You can sit the test as many times as you need to reach the pass mark.
If you have already passed the Life in the UK Test and obtained a certificate as part of your Indefinite Leave to Remain application, you will be exempt from needing to pass the test as part of your UK naturalization application.
If you are under 18 or over 65 years old and seeking British citizenship, you will also be exempt from the Life in the UK Test requirement for British nationality. The same applies to anyone suffering from long-term mental or physical illness or disability.
You are able to book your Life in the UK Test online, but you have to do so at least three days before you plan on sitting the exam. You are also required to choose one from your five closest approved test centres to sit your exam.
You’ll need to bring ID and proof of address with you on the day of your exam. If you don’t, you won’t be able to sit the exam and you won’t be given a refund for your examination fee. This is to prevent fraud and to ensure that the person who is applying is the person sitting the exam.
Upon passing the test, you’ll receive a letter of notification. You’ll have to send this letter to the UKVI alongside other material as part of your naturalisation application. You may need to send it alongside your permanent address form.
Understanding The 'Good Character' Requirement
An important but sometimes confusing part of the naturalisation application process is the need for applicants to prove themselves to have a ‘good character’.
This essentially boils down to showing that you have always shown respect and abode by UK laws while in the country, while also maintaining an excellent history of abiding by the laws of other countries too.
One of the most important UK citizenship requirements is to demonstrate that in the previous years you have spent living in the UK, you have done so legally and responsibly.
Having your citizenship application approved means earning all the same rights as anyone born in the UK. Crucially, this also means being able to apply for a British passport.
For these reasons, the Home Office will scrutinise your background history, including any previous immigration status you have held, your travel history, your financial history, and any history of criminality.
British nationality law is quite strict, and these background checks are an important part of validating your legal right to seek citizenship in the UK.
Because of this, those with criminal records may find themselves considered to not have ‘good character’ and eligibility for UK naturalisation.
As a general rule, the UKVI and the Home Office will not consider applicants who have held a custodial sentence of four years or longer to be of ‘good character’, and their citizenship application will be automatically denied on these terms.
Similarly, any applicants who fail to disclose the full details of their criminal history and any relevant records with the UK authorities as part of their application will also have their application automatically refused.
The Residency Requirements For British Citizenship Through Naturalisation
You may often hear British naturalisation for non-EEA foreign national adult applicants be referred to as the ‘five-year immigration route’. This is because for this immigration route to earn full British citizenship, the naturalisation application after receiving Indefinite Leave to Remain is only the final step in earning full UK nationality. To do so, you will need to have been living legally in the UK for at least five years before applying to become a British national. An exception to this rule is foreign national spouses of British citizens applying for naturalisation, in which case it is sometimes possible to apply after just three years of lawful residence in the UK. This process is often known as citizenship by marriage, although it still falls under applying for British nationality.
An important aspect of the residency requirements for British citizenship is that you can show that you have not only been legally residing in the UK for five or more years but that you have also spent most of this time actually in the country. Since arriving in the UK, you must not have spent 450 days or longer abroad in the five year period leading up to your application, or 270 days for the UK citizenship by marriage immigration route for naturalisation.
Further on top of this, in the 12 months/one year period leading up to your application, you must have spent no more than 90 days abroad and absent from the UK. An important criteria for the Home Office and UK immigration restrictions when applying for citizenship is that you can prove you fully intend on living in the UK after receiving your British citizenship, and if you have spent an extended period of time abroad away from the UK during your legal residence here, it may indicate to immigration controls that you actually intend to return abroad after receiving British nationality.
If you really do need to spend some significant time abroad, then you might be able to have your case evaluated by the Home Office if there are compelling grounds for your case. Here at the Immigration Advice Service, we always recommend that people keep a thorough collection of evidence and supporting documents that detail and demonstrate the reasons for your absence each time you leave the UK. The Home Office keeps access to detailed immigration records and is capable of easily investigating the amount of time you have spent in or out of the UK, so it’s important that you are prepared to defend your case if necessary.
How To Make A British Citizenship Application
If you choose to submit your application to become a British citizen yourself, you’ll need to complete and submit for AN, the application for naturalisation as a British citizen. Form AN is 30 pages long and there are also guidance notes and an accompanying supporting guidance booklet available to help assist you in completing the form.
Form An is a comprehensive form that requires detailed information about yourself. The form is split into different sections, and you will need to provide as much detail as possible to demonstrate your eligibility and improve your possibility for success. You will need to include biographical data, details about your employment status in the UK, any dependants applying alongside you, and proof of residency in the UK. If you are applying for naturalisation as the spouse of a British citizen, you’ll need to provide plenty of evidence of your relationship. You will also need to provide details of two appointed referees. Your referees will need to sign and approve your application form AN to prove that the information is included is true and correct.
Some of the information you will need to include as part of Form AN includes:
- Personal Information – This includes information about yourself, such as your own contact details, the contact and personal details of your parents and partner, any necessary employment details, and your knowledge of life in the UK.
- Residence Requirements – This will include information about your current UK residence, as well as thorough details of any absences from the UK in the five year period leading up to your application. For EEA and Swiss nationals, permanent residence details will need to be included.
- Evidence of Good Character – You’ll need to include any information about prior convictions or criminal background. This also includes any cautions you might have received. While the most important part of this is to include information about criminal activity in the UK, it’s also important to include information about any convictions you’ve received abroad.
- Referees – It’s important that you have two officially designated referees and are able to provide full personal and contact details for both individuals as part of form AN.
- Biometric Information – This includes a photograph and fingerprint scans that will be taken at a local UKVCAS service point.
- Declaration – This is an opportunity for you to strengthen your case with supporting documents that demonstrate your eligibility and suitability to become a full British national through naturalisation.
What Documents Do I Need To Include With My Application?
The application for British Citizenship can be very long and complex, with a non-refundable fee. With that in mind, it’s worth making sure that you have the time to make your initial application completed to the highest standard possible before applying. A strong portfolio and application will strengthen your chances of success and help the Home Office in evaluating your case, potentially speeding the process up. Some of the documents you will need to supply include:
- Life in the UK and IELTS certificates.
- Your BMP (biometric residence permit).
- Residence card and any proof that you hold Indefinite Leave to Remain (ILR).
- All travel documents you have from the last five years that prove continuous residence in the UK.
- Original passport detailing your existing nationality.
- Evidence of any previous visas.
- Proof that you are currently free from UK immigration restrictions.
It can be easy to become confused or frustrated when trying to put together the full British naturalisation application. Here at the Immigration Advice Service, we always recommend that applicant seek expert legal help during this process. Fortunately, our OISC-qualified immigration lawyers have helped many naturalised citizens through their application process, helping to make sure that sufficient documentation is included. Our application package of services is a fantastic option that will guide you through all stages of your application status and help to ensure that the Home Office is satisfied with your application.
How To Make A British Citizenship Application?
If you have thoroughly assessed your eligibility and you feel ready and confident to begin the application process for UK naturalisation, then it’s time to begin your application. To apply for British nationality, you’ll need to complete the relevant official and certified Home Office form. This process can take between three and six months in total to complete, and upon approval, successful applicants will be invited to a citizenship ceremony at which they will be awarded their certificate of naturalisation.
To officially send your request for full British citizenship, you’ll need to complete the relevant application form AN provided by UKVI (UK visas and immigration) and submit it along with all necessary supporting documentation. You’ll also need to arrange to have your biometric information taken at a local UKVCAS (UK visa and citizenship application services) centre. This will include a photograph and fingerprint scans, and is a mandatory part of applying for British naturalisation. You don’t need to submit these documents anywhere by post, you can instead have them scanned at the UKVCAS service point you visit, or simply upload the copies into the online service.
There are two main ways to apply for British naturalisation. You can choose to either:
- Make an application yourself.
- Use a representative agent
There are a number of reasons why a British naturalisation application can be refused, and the majority of reasons relate to some form of criminality. Some of the most common reasons include the following:
- Naturalisation refused to an existing CCJ
- Naturalisation refused due to tax reasons
- Naturalisation refused due to employment history
- Refusal on the basis of character
Your naturalisation may be refused based on a previous conviction, but attention may be given to the type of sentence you received (custodial or non-custodial), the length of time served, and whether the nature of the crime happened once or over multiple occasions.
Unfortunately, if your application for naturalisation was refused, there is currently no grounds for you to appeal the decision.
However, you can submit a Request to Reconsider application at a cost of £372 if you believe that your case is strong enough to have the original decision overturned.
Alternatively, you can submit a fresh application, but you will be required to pay the application fee once more (the current fee is £1,330).
If you think that it is likely your application may be refused, the best option is likely to speak with a qualified immigration lawyer about your options and the best approach to take.
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There are a few different ways for people who are not full British nationals to become full UK citizens with all the rights that come with that status. Technically, however, naturalisation is a route only available to adult applicants who were not born in the UK and have travelled from abroad. This route is different to those taken by applicants born either inside or outside the UK to British parents seeking full citizenship, children adopted from abroad, and people who already hold some other form of British nationality. You might commonly hear this being referred to as the ‘5-year route’, although spouses of British nationals can complete the process in 3 years.
If you are eligible to become a British national through UK naturalisation, be aware that doing so may mean that you lose your original citizenship for your home country. This entirely depends on the country from which you are travelling, and we always recommend people to seek professional guidance before beginning their application process. It might be that your decision to seek British nationality changes if it means losing your previous nationality.
When you have held ILR (Indefinite Leave to Remain) for at one year or longer, you are then eligible to make an application to become a naturalised British citizen. You can only gain Indefinite Leave to Remain after living continuously in the UK for at least five years, and you’ll have to prove continuous residency for both of these applications.
During the 12 months before applying for naturalisation, you can’t have spent longer than 90 days outside the UK. After making your application to the British government, the Home Office will inform you within four weeks that they have received your application. Bear in mind that the average process time is lengthy, with most taking about six months to complete.
There’s a good chance that during this time you’ll be invited to attend an official interview. In this interview, you’ll also have to prove competency in the English language by performing the interview without an interpreter. When you have eventually received your official Certificate of Citizenship, you will then be free to apply for your first British passport through a passport application form.
UK naturalization fees are among the most notoriously expensive in Europe. The current fee for naturalisation including a citizenship ceremony fee is £1,330 and nationality registration as a British citizen for adults is £1,206, while for children it’s £1,012.
It’s also worth noting that there are additional costs to take into account such as the £50 fee for taking the Life in the UK test – a fee that is paid every time you need to retake the test.
The Life in the UK Test, sometimes referred to as the British Citizenship Test, is a crucial part of your UK naturalisation application. By passing the test, you essentially prove to the Home Office that you understand, have knowledge of, and are committed to upholding British culture, customs, and traditions. You’ll sit the exam at an approved test centre and the entire test takes place on a computer.
Applying for British naturalisation can a daunting and sometimes frustrating task. Fortunately, immigration law specialists are always available to provide the legal advice you need. Our lawyers are all OISC-qualified and experienced in immigration matters of all kinds, including helping foreign nationals with UK naturalisation applications. If you’re unsure about your eligibility and suitability for naturalisation, our legal advice package offers a one to one conversation in which you’ll be able to get the advice and guidance you need to make the best decision for you.
British naturalisation applications are known for being long, confusing, and often frustrating or stressful. It’s always recommended to seek professional advice and assistance when going through the process. Fortunately, here at the Immigration Advice Service, our team of specialised, OISC-qualified lawyers are always on hand to provide the guidance and assistance you need.
With the fantastic IAS application package, your dedicated immigration lawyer will check your documentation, provide an in-depth Letter of Representation to be sent to the Home Office, manage interactions with the British government and Home Office, and ensure that each aspect of your application meets the standards necessary.
We will work closely with you to assist you through every stage of your naturalisation process and your UK naturalisation application. We’ll help you to prepare for the Life in the UK test and make sure you meet all the necessary English language requirements to become a full British subject.