Becoming a British citizen comes with many benefits. British citizenship will grant you permanent residence in the UK but you will also be entitled to the same rights as all other British citizens. This means that as well as permanent residence there are other benefits that you do not get with Indefinite Leave to Remain. This includes being able to vote in all UK elections and being able to apply for a British passport which can be used to travel freely in and out of the country.
With British citizenship you will be free of immigration restrictions, this means you can leave the UK for as long as you like and still maintain your right to permanent residence. Having citizenship means that you can also claim public funds.
Becoming a British citizen
Becoming a British citizen is usually a complex process no matter which route you use, but there are several routes available. The right route for you will depend on your circumstances, you can become a British citizen using any of the following routes:
- Naturalisation – for overseas nationals who have lived in the UK for 5 years and hold Indefinite Leave to Remain or settled status
- British Citizenship by Birth or Descent – for people who were born in the UK or have a parent who was a British citizen or had settled status at the time of their birth
- British Citizenship by Marriage – for overseas nationals with Indefinite Leave to Remain who are married to a British citizen or person with settled status in the UK
To apply for British citizenship you must meet the requirements of one of the above routes, each route has its own set of requirements and the application process varies, find out more about each of them below.
Naturalisation is the most common route to British citizenship for overseas nationals. Foreign nationals can be eligible for citizenship by naturalisation once they have lived in the UK for 5 years. As well as this, there are several other requirements that must be met, they include:
- Being over the age of 18
- Having spent at least 5 years of continuous residence in the UK, with no longer than 450 days outside the UK.
- Holding Indefinite Leave to Remain or another form of settled status for at least 12 months
- Passing the Life in the UK Test, this is a test of knowledge on UK history and traditions
- Demonstrating a knowledge of the English language at B1 CEFR level
- Meeting the good character requirement, this means that you have not broken immigration rules or other laws
It’s also worth noting that to be eligible for British nationality by naturalisation you cannot spend more than 90 days outside the UK during your final year of the 5 year qualifying period.
To apply for British citizenship via naturalisation you must complete the application form provided by the UKVI, and submit it along with your supporting documentation that proves you are able to meet the above requirements.
When applying for naturalisation you will also need to prove your identity by having your biometric details (photograph and fingerprint scans) collected at your nearest UKVCAS centre.
If your application to become a British citizen is approved, you must then attend a British citizenship ceremony.
British Citizenship by Birth or Descent
If at least one of your parents was a British citizen at the time of your Birth then you may automatically be a British citizen by birth. You could automatically hold British citizenship if one of the following applies to you:
- You lived in the UK until you were 10, this can depend on whether your parents were British citizens or settled in the UK at the time of your birth
- You were born after 31 December 1982 and before 1 July 2006 and either your mother was a British citizen or settled person or your father was a British citizen or settled person and married to your mother
- You were born on or after 1 July 2006 and at least one of your parents was a British citizen or had settled status at the time of your birth
If you do not qualify as an automatic citizen by meeting any of the above criteria, you could still be eligible to register as a British citizen if any of the following apply:
- You were born after 31 December 1982 and before 1 July 2006 and both of your parents were not British citizens or settled in the UK, or your father was a British citizen or had settled status in the UK and was not married to your mother
- You were born on or after 1 July 2006 and neither of your parents had British citizenship or settled status at the time of your birth
To be eligible to register for British citizenship if either of the above apply you must not have spent more than 90 days outside the UK in each of the first 10 years of your life. If there are special reasons as to why you have spent more time outside the UK then you will need to explain these reasons on the application form.
You can apply for register as a British citizen by birth using either the online application form or by posting an application form to the Home Office, postal applications usually take longer to process.
British Citizenship by Marriage
Overseas nationals can apply for British citizenship by marriage using the process of naturalisation, however the requirements for naturalisation differ if you are married to a British citizen. Instead of having to have lived in the UK for at least 5 years, spouses and civil partners of British citizens are only required to have lived in the UK for at least 3 years.
Spouses of British citizens must have Indefinite Leave to Remain before they can apply for citizenship, however they do not need to hold this status for 12 months before applying to become a British citizen, instead they can apply as soon as they have been granted Indefinite Leave to Remain.
To apply for citizenship my Marriage you must meet the other naturalisation requirements including passing the Life in the UK Test, demonstrating a knowledge of the English language and meeting the good character requirement.
How can IAS help?
British nationality law is one of the most complex areas of UK immigration law and the process of becoming a British citizen is often stressful, expensive and very time-consuming.
If you plan to apply for British citizenship using any of the available routes, it’s highly recommended that you seek the assistance of an immigration lawyers. This is because each route has its own set of requirements and the evidence that you will need to provide will vary depending on your individual circumstances.
Our immigration lawyers will explain the British citizenship requirements to you, can assess your eligibility for the various routes to British citizenship and advise you on which would be the best option for you. We can also help you to apply for citizenship via any of the available routes. Our immigration lawyers can assist you with filling in the application form, can help you to gather all of your supporting documents, check that any paperwork is free from mistakes and can liaise with the Home Office on your behalf to receive updates about your applications progress.
For more information about applying for British citizenship or the routes available, get in touch with our team today on 0333 305 9375.
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